Omega fatty acid balance can alter immunity and gene expression

May 29, 2009

Using a controlled diet study with human volunteers, researchers may have teased out a biological basis for the increased inflammation observed due to humans' shift in their consumption of omega fatty acids.

For the past century, changes in the Western diet have altered the consumption of (w6, found in meat and vegetable oils) compared with (w3, found in flax and fish oil). Many studies seem to indicate this shift has brought about an increased risk of inflammation (associated with autoimmunity and allergy), and now using a controlled diet study with human volunteers, researchers may have teased out a biological basis for these reported changes.

Anthropological evidence suggests that human ancestors maintained a 2:1 w6/w3 ratio for much of history, but in Western countries today the ratio has spiked to as high as 10:1. Since these omega fatty acids can be converted into inflammatory molecules, this dietary change is believed to also disrupt the proper balance of pro- and anti- inflammatory agents, resulting in increased systemic inflammation and a higher incidence of problems including asthma, allergies, diabetes, and arthritis.

Floyd Chilton and colleagues wanted to examine whether theses fatty acids might have other effects, and developed a dietary intervention strategy in which 27 healthy humans were fed a controlled diet mimicking the w6/w3 ratios of early humans over 5 weeks. They then looked at the gene levels of immune signals and cytokines (protein immune messengers), that impact autoimmunity and allergy in and found that many key signaling genes that promote inflammation were markedly reduced compared to a normal diet, including a signaling gene for a protein called PI3K, a critical early step in autoimmune and responses.

This study demonstrates, for the first time in humans, that large changes in gene expression are likely an important mechanism by which these omega fatty acids exert their potent clinical effects.

More information: Effect of dietary fatty acids on inflammatory gene expression in healthy humans, by Kelly L. Weaver, Priscilla Ivester, MIchael C. Seeds, L. Douglas Case, Jonathan Arm and Floyd H. Chilton. Article Link:

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Explore further: Altering Fatty Acid Levels in Diet May Reduce Prostate Cancer Growth Rate

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1 / 5 (1) May 29, 2009
Good work! Finally, more facts to fit the 15 - 20 yr old theory. The Seed Oil Producers of America are finally about to get hoisted by their own petard - they are the ones who spread the false information that polyunsaturated fats were good and saturated ones bad in the 60's and 70's. That myth continues.

The industrially produced meats that we eat do not have the naturally occurring 2:1 ratio of linoleic to linolenic acids because they are fattened on the same seed meal that is a by-product of producing the linolenic acid poor oils for our use. Canola/rape being the exception. So, grass fed meats are okay.
not rated yet May 29, 2009
Maybe some day they will make up their minds????
not rated yet May 30, 2009
Udo Erasmus has a great book on this called 'Fats that Heal and Fats that Kill". Anyone interested in health should read this.
not rated yet Jun 01, 2009
Wow, 2:1 -> 10:1 is a HUGE shift!

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