Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), namely of omega-6 and omega-3, have traditionally known to work together influencing the risk of development of chronic diseases in people. This has however, been a bit of a grey area in medicine so far, with no proper supporting research clearly defining it role. Now, a new research undertaken shows that it is not the combination of the two but their particular ration that impacts risks of chronic diseases.
Researchers used transgenic mouse models with 4 strains from a wild, normal mouse and then three related mouse strains engineered to produce varying levels of n-6 and n-3 PUFA. The paper published in Nature’s Communication Biology, showed that the four showed different levels of chronic disorders in relation to the proportion of PUFA in their system. The mice that over-produced n-6 PUFA had a higher risk of metabolic disease and cancer, while mice able to convert n-6 to n-3, thereby lowering the ratio, showed a healthier phenotype.
“Understanding of the differential effects of these two classes of polyunsaturated fatty acids on the development of chronic disease is important but challenging due to confounding dietary factors. We have developed a unique approach to address that.” says the study’s senior author Jing X. Kang, MD, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Lipid Medicine and Technology at MGH and associate professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The team led by Kang has created several novel mouse models for studying health effects of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Where on one hand the study concludes that their proportions in the system heightens the risk of chronic disease, it also infers that when achieved certain balance, they can go against the grain and produce the opposite and more advantageous effect in the human body.
“Many lines of evidence now support the notion that the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance is a critical factor that contributes to the development of chronic disease,” Kang added. “Balancing the PUFA ratio may be a safe and effective solution to some modern health problems.” His team is currently working on translational research to explore the clinical utility of the balancing intervention and the feasibility of using the tissue omega-6/omega-3 ratio as a new health biomarker.