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How the balance between dietary omega 6 and omega 3 fats affects health

The importance of a balance between omega 6 and omega 3 fats in the diet was highlighted in a study conducted by researchers from Boston.

PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) in the diet and their effects on health have been studied for many years. These fats have been associated with chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease.

An unhealthy diet can alter gut bacteria, resulting in low-grade persistent inflammation, in turn leading to the development of chronic diseases. Hence, identifying the dietary components that can influence gut flora may be beneficial for a healthy living. For a detailed analysis, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School of Boston, focused on the balance between dietary omega 6 and omega 3 fats, which constitute the major portion of PUFA in the diet. This study was published in the journal Nature’s Communication Biology.

The study was conducted on four types of mice, which differed in the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fats produced in their bodies, irrespective of their feed. The natural mice being one of the types studied; the other three types were specifically developed by genetic engineering, to produce varying levels of PUFA in their bodies. The mice with a high ratio of omega-6:omega3 fats had altered gut flora and metabolites conducive to the development of cancers and chronic diseases. While the mice with a balanced ratio of omega 6: omega 3 fats had a healthy gut flora, suppressing chronic inflammation and were healthier than their counterparts.

According to one of the researchers, “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.  Balancing the PUFA ratio may be a safe and effective solution to some modern health problems.”

The modern Western diet has an unbalanced ratio of omega6:omega3 fats, causing a detrimental effect on one’s health. Fair knowledge of the dietary components and appropriate modification in the diet helps avoid chronic health risks. The researchers are currently exploring the use of omega6:omega3 ratio as an indicator of health.

Written by Dr. Radhika Baitari, MS


Kaliannan, K., Li, X., Wang, B., Pan, Q., Chen, C., Hao, L., Xie, S. and Kang, J. (2019).Multi-omic analysis in transgenic mice implicates omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid imbalance as a risk factor for chronic disease.

EurekAlert!. (2019). Mouse model supports importance of fatty acid balance in chronic disease. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].

Image by cattalin from Pixabay



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