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The interplay of genes, diet and heart disease

at consumed more than six percent of daily calories from omega-6 fatty acids displayed a blood lipid profile more prone to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and heart disease, including higher triglyceride levels.

Jose Ordovas, PhD, senior author of the study and director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA, notes that "previous research points to polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s as 'good' fats, thought to reduce risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels if used in place of saturated fats that are mostly found in animal sources."

Ordovas continues, "Research hasn't shown us yet if there is an optimal ratio for omega- 3s to omega-6s, or if consuming a certain amount of omega-6s might negate the benefits of omega-3s. We do know that omega-6s are necessary for the body and can be a source of healthful fat in the diet, but for the 13 percent who are carriers of the particular APOA5 gene variant, consuming fewer omega-6s in relation to omega-3s may be important, as it might help reduce the risk of developing precursors to heart disease." The carriers of the variant who ate more than six percent of total calories from omega-6s had a 21 percent increase in triglyceride levels, as well as an approximately 34 percent elevation of certain atherogenic lipoprotein particles in the blood.

Carriers who consumed less than six percent of total calories from omega-6s did not show a significant increase in the lipid levels that are risk factors for heart disease. In contrast to omega-6s, higher consumption of omega-3s decreased triglyceride and atherogenic lipoprotein particle levels in the blood, regardless of a person's APOA5 gene variant.

Although the researchers analyzed information on several types of dietary fat, including saturated fat and monounsaturated fat, the interactions between diet and APOA5 were seen only with PUFAs, "adding evidence to the prominent role of PU
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