PURPOSE OF REVIEW: There has been much debate over the practical utility of the dietary ratio of n-6 to n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in optimizing the benefits of n-3 fatty acids (C18-C22) on cardiovascular health. This review examines the supporting evidence from the OPTILIP study within the context of the emerging consensus on the value of this dietary metric.

RECENT FINDINGS: The question of whether the ratio of n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids or total amounts of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids is of more importance to cardiovascular health has been addressed recently in a randomly controlled trial (OPTILIP) and in a stable isotope tracer study. These two studies were independently unanimous in concluding that the ratio of n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is of no value in modifying cardiovascular disease risk. The latter study also showed that the absolute amounts of dietary linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are of relevance to the efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

SUMMARY: This review should help to settle any outstanding controversy over the dietary ratio of n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

It reinforces current recommendations to increase the consumption of preformed eicosapentaenoic acid/docosahexaenoic acid in fish, and supports dietary measures to increase and decrease intakes alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, respectively, to promote the endogenous synthesis of these longer chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Key words: omega ratio, omega balance