n-6 and n-3 fatty acids and the metabolic syndrome

Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, serum zinc, delta-5- and delta-6-desaturase activities and incident metabolic syndrome

Yary et al., JHND Early View


The associations of n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) with metabolic syndrome have been poorly explored. We investigated the associations of the serum n-6 PUFA and the activities of enzymes involved in the PUFA metabolism, delta-5-desaturase (D5D) and delta-6-desaturase (D6D) with risk of incident metabolic syndrome. We also investigated whether zinc, a cofactor for these enzymes, modifies these associations.


A prospective follow-up study was conducted on 661 men who were aged 42–60 years old at baseline in 1984–1989 and who were re-examined in 1998–2001.


Men in the highest versus the lowest serum total omega-6 PUFA tertile had a 70% lower multivariate-adjusted risk of incident metabolic syndrome [odds ratio (OR) = 0.30; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.18–0.51, Ptrend < 0.001]. Inverse associations were also observed for linoleic acid, arachidonic acid and D5D activity. By contrast, men in the highest tertile of D6D activity had an 84% higher risk (OR = 1.84; 95% CI = 1.15–2.94, Ptrend = 0.008). Similar associations were observed with many of the metabolic syndrome components at the re-examinations. Most associations were attenuated after adjustment for body mass index. Finally, the associations of D6D and LA were stronger among those with a higher serum zinc concentration.


Higher serum total n-6 PUFA, linoleic acid and arachidonic acid concentrations and D5D activity were associated with a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome and higher D6D activity was associated with a higher risk. The role of zinc also needs to be investigated in other populations.


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