Omega-3 and omega-6 FAs both have beneficial roles to play in reducing risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although this is largely noncontroversial for the former FA family, some researchers have cautioned that the latter family may actually increase risk for CVD. This review will summarize the relevant human evidence, which shows that, in fact, both FA families are protective. The presumed “pro-inflammatory” nature of the omega-6 FAs (which is the basis for their hypothetical adverse effects) is not supported in a wide variety of human observational and interventional studies. The individual members of the omega-6 FA family can have completely opposing associations with risk; therefore there is no rational basis for summing all of the omega-6 FAs into a single metric and ascribing some health effect to the whole group. The primary omega-6 FA in the diet, linoleic acid, is associated with lower risk for both coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, hence lowering intakes (and thus blood levels) would be expected to raise, not lower, risk. Recommended intakes of linoleic acid in the 5%-10% range still apply. Most studies support the view that replacing saturated and trans fats in the diet with both the omega-6 and omega-3 FAs is the best overall strategy for reducing cardiometabolic risk.
ASJC Scopus subject areas