Harvard Men's Health Watch

Higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids may lower death rates in older men

In the Journals

Omega-3 fatty acids are touted for their potential health benefits, and rightfully so, but a new study suggests men may want to get enough omega-6 fatty acids, too. Research published online Aug. 17, 2016, by JAMA Cardiology found that high levels of omega-6s in the subcutaneous adipose tissue—the layer of fat just beneath the skin—correlated with lower death rates among older men. Omega-6s in the diet mostly come in the form of linoleic acid, found in plant oils (such as corn, soybean, and sunflower oils) as well as nuts and seeds.

In the study, adipose tissue biopsy specimens and blood samples were taken from 853 men at an average age of 71. The men also filled out a seven-day food diary. After taking into account known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the researchers found that a higher proportion of linoleic acid in the adipose tissue was associated with a lower risk of death during the 15-year follow-up period.

Linoleic acid is known to shrink levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the blood, which can contribute to lower incidence of heart disease, although the study did not address whether this was a factor.

However, the researchers said the findings support current dietary advice to replace trans fat and saturated fat in one's diet with healthier polyunsaturated fats that contain both omega-3s and omega-6s. The American Heart Association recommends that people get 5% to 10% of their daily food calories from omega-6s.