As with many nutrition topics, the potential risks and benefits of omega-6 fatty acids is a subject of ongoing research. Much of the attention directed toward this fatty acid relates to its possible role in inflammation. We covered this topic in a recent blog post and now want to discuss new science supporting the benefits this polyunsaturated fat.
Omega-6 and Risk of Death
Findings from a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that omega-6 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of death.
The 2018 study used data from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study, a large, ongoing study of cardiovascular risk. Subjects were 2,480 middle-aged men (42–60 years old) who were followed for an average of 22 years.
During the follow-up period, 1,143 deaths occurred. Researchers found that those with the highest (top 20 percent) blood levels of linoleic acid, compared to the lowest (bottom 20 percent), had a 43 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 46 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease-related death. Arachidonic acid has similar, but weaker associations.
The lead researcher of this study conducted a separate study, also using data from the KIHD study. This involved 1,287 healthy men, aged 42–60 years. Results showed that blood levels of both total omega-6 fatty acids and linoleic acid were associated with lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a key indicator of inflammation. Further, among those with the highest linoleic acid levels (top 25 percent) the likelihood for elevated CRP levels was 53 percent lower than those with the lowest intake (bottom 25 percent).
Omega-6 and Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Results from a 2017 meta-analysis in The Lancet suggest omega-6 fatty acids may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
The review included 20 prospective cohort studies with a total of 39,740 adults from 10 countries, including the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Finland, Australia, Iceland, the Netherlands, Taiwan and Sweden. These subjects were between the ages of 49 and 76 and did not have diabetes at baseline. Blood levels of linoleic acid and arachidonic acid were measured at baseline.
During the follow-up period of 366,073 person years, 4,347 new cases of diabetes occurred. Analysis showed that subjects with higher blood levels of linoleic acid as percentages of total fatty acids had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Further, those with the highest levels of linoleic acid had a 35 percent reduced risk for type 2 diabetes compared to those with the lowest levels. Arachidonic acid was not found to be significantly associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The Good Fats 101 team is committed to keeping you current with all things related to dietary fats. Stay tuned to the blog for more updates and be sure to visit our research section.