Human beings evolved consuming a diet that contained about equal amounts of y-6 and y-3 essential fatty acids. Today, in Western diets, the ratio of y-6 to y-3 fatty acids ranges from approximately 10:1 to 20:1 instead of the traditional range of 1:1 to 2:1. Studies indicate that a high intake of y-6 fatty acids shifts the physiologic state to one that is prothrombotic and proaggregatory, characterized by increases in blood viscosity, vasospasm, and vasoconstriction, and decreases in bleeding time. y-3 fatty acids, however, have anti-inflammatory, antithrombotic, antiarrhythmic, hypolipidemic, and vasodilatory properties. Excessive radical formation and trauma during high-intensity exercise leads to an inflammatory state that is made worse by the increased amount of y-6 fatty acids in Western diets, although this can be counteracted by eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For the majority of athletes, especially those at the leisure level, general guidelines should include EPA and DHA of about 1 to 2 g/d at a ratio of EPA:DHA of 2:1.
Corresponding author Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, 2001 S Street NW, Suite 530, Washington, DC 20009, USA. E-mail: email@example.com