The imbalance of fatty acids in the typical American diet could be associated with the sharp increase in heart disease and depression seen over the past century, a new study suggests.
Specifically, the more omega-6 fatty acids people had in their blood compared with omega-3 fatty acid levels, the more likely they were to suffer from symptoms of depression and have higher blood levels of inflammation-promoting compounds, report Dr. Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser and her colleagues from Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus.
These compounds, which include tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6, are "all-purpose 'nasties' for aging," and have been tied to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and other ailments, Kiecolt-Glaser told Reuters Health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish, flax seed oil and walnuts, while omega-6 fatty acids are found in refined vegetable oils used to make everything from margarine to baked goods and snack foods. The amount of omega-6 fatty acids in the Western diet increased sharply once refined vegetable oils became part of the average diet in the early 20th century.