Competition of EFA during Diet-Tissue Changes
No person can ever step into the same river twice – Heraclitus noted that people and their environment are constantly changing. The interaction of genes with their environment creates life that “surfs” on waves of energy and materials, changing from day to day, and differing year to year.
Omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) were first recognized as vitamin-like nutrients in 1929. Their similar chemistry was clarified during 1930 to 1960. Competition between n-6 linoleic and n-3 linolenic means that eating more of one type alters actions of the other. This occurs with competition for the elongation and desaturation metabolism that efficiently forms HUFA that accumulate in tissues.
Early signs of the need for EFA were poor growth. Eating more than 0.1% of energy (but less than 0.5 % energy) of n-6 linoleic acid prevented deficiency symptoms in infants. We now know that intakes of n-6 linoleic acid causing the %n-6 in HUFA to be above 50% are associated with higher risks for health disorders.
Competition occurs between omega-3 and omega-6 acids during eicosanoid formation and action. Too much omega-6 creates a transition (4:53 min video) between healthy physiology and pathophysiology with excessive immune-inflammatory events. With no dietary omega-3 nutrients, the dietary omega-6 linoleate has a very narrow therapeutic window that is made wider by eating omega-3 nutrients. Eating less omega-6 lets competing omega-3 nutrients be more effective in diminishing risk for chronic inflammatory processes.
Pioneering 1963 work of Mohrhauer and Holman (1 min.video) showed potent competition of dietary n-3 and n-6 nutrients in forming tissue HUFA .
Health risk assessment (1 min.video) estimates using HUFA balance (the %n-6 in HUFA) that results from food choices. What people eat is important.
Updated June, 2017