Essential fatty acids (EFA) are nutrients that form an amazingly large array of bioactive mediators that act on a large family of selective receptors. Nearly every cell and tissue in the human body expresses at least one of these receptors, allowing EFA-based signaling to influence nearly every aspect of human physiology. In this way, the health consequences of specific gene-environment interactions with these nutrients are more extensive than often recognized.

The metabolic transformations have similar competitive dynamics for the n-3 and n-6 homologs when converting dietary EFA from the external environment of foods into the highly unsaturated fatty acid (HUFA) esters that accumulate in the internal environment of cells and tissues. In contrast, the formation and action of bioactive mediators during tissue responses to stimuli tend to selectively create more intense consequences for n-6 than n-3 homologs.

Both n-3 and n-6 nutrients have beneficial actions, but many common health disorders are undesired consequences of excessive actions of tissue n-6 HUFA which are preventable.

This review considers the possibility of preventing imbalances in dietary n-3 and n-6 nutrients with informed voluntary food choices. That action may prevent the unintended consequences that come from eating imbalanced diets which support excessive chronic actions of n-6 mediators that harm human health.

The consequences from preventing n-3 and n-6 nutrient imbalances on a nationwide scale may be very large, and they need careful evaluation and implementation to avoid further harmful consequences for the national economy.

PMID: 23112921

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