Dietary linoleic acid (LA, 18:2n-6) lowering in rats reduces n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) plasma concentrations and increases n-3 PUFA (eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) concentrations.

To evaluate the extent to which 12 weeks of dietary n-6 PUFA lowering, with or without increased dietary n-3 PUFAs, alters unesterified and esterified plasma n-6 and n-3 PUFA concentrations in subjects with chronic headache.

Secondary analysis of a randomized trial. Subjects with chronic headache were randomized for 12 weeks to (1) average n-3, low n-6 (L6) diet; or (2) high n-3, low n-6 LA (H3-L6) diet. Esterified and unesterified plasma fatty acids were quantified at baseline (0 weeks) and after 12 weeks on a diet.

Compared to baseline, the L6 diet reduced esterified plasma LA and increased esterified n-3 PUFA concentrations (nmol/ml), but did not significantly change plasma arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6) concentration. In addition, unesterified EPA concentration was increased significantly among unesterified fatty acids. The H3-L6 diet decreased esterified LA and AA concentrations, and produced more marked increases in esterified and unesterified n-3 PUFA concentrations.

Dietary n-6 PUFA lowering for 12 weeks significantly reduces LA and increases n-3 PUFA concentrations in plasma, without altering plasma AA concentration. A concurrent increase in dietary n-3 PUFAs for 12 weeks further increases n-3 PUFA plasma concentrations and reduces AA.