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Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids: partners in prevention

Harris, William

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: March 2010 - Volume 13 - Issue 2 - p 125–129
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283357242
Lipid metabolism and therapy: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review This review addresses the cardiovascular benefits of the two families of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (FAs): omega-6 and omega-3. The former (and the shorter chain species of the latter) are found in vegetable oils and nuts, whereas the longer chain omega-3 FAs are found in fish oils. Although most clinicians understand that the omega-3 FAs are beneficial, there have been calls in the popular press to reduce the intake of the omega-6 FAs because of presumed proinflammatory and prothrombotic effects.

Recent findings The American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee has published two ‘Science Advisories’, one in 2002 on omega-3 FAs and a new one on omega-6 FAs. Both considered a wide variety of data regarding their effects on cardiac risk.

Summary The AHA concludes that Americans need to increase their intake of long-chain omega-3 FAs and that they should maintain (and possibly even increase) their intakes of omega-6 FAs. For the omega-3 FAs, a healthy target intake is about 500 mg per day (whether from oily fish or fish oil capsules) and for linoleic acid, approximately 15 g per day (12 g for women and 17 g for men). Achieving healthy intakes of both omega-6 and omega-3 FAs is an important component of the nutritional prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease.

Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota and Sanford Research/USD, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Correspondence to William Harris, PhD, Sanford Research/USD, 1100 E 21st Street, Suite 700, Sioux Falls, SD 57105, USA E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.