The effects of the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid on the human body are largely dependent on genes, a new study from the University of Eastern Finland shows.
People carrying different variants of the FADS1 gene had a different inflammatory response and different changes in their fasting glucose levels when supplementing their diet by linoleic acid rich sunflower oil. This was the first time these associations were studied in humans.
According to Postdoctoral Researcher Maria Lankinen from the University of Eastern Finland, the findings warrant speculation on whether the recommended intake of linoleic acid – and possibly other fatty acids, too – should be tailored to match a person’s genes. “However, further research is needed before we can make any recommendations based on genes,” says Lankinen.
The FADS1 gene regulates the body’s fatty acid metabolism and also plays a role in glucose metabolism. A person’s diet, in turn, has a major impact on the concentrations of different fatty acids in the body.
Linoleic acid is found in plant-based oils, nuts and seeds, and it is the most common polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid. A high intake and high levels of linoleic acid in the blood have been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Impact on inflammation
On the other hand, however, the metabolites of linoleic acid can mediate inflammation, which is why a high intake of linoleic acid is regarded as a plausible factor contributing to low-grade inflammatory state. According to the newly published study, these contradictory observations could be explained by genetic differences.
The study findings indicate that the effects of linoleic acid on the human body are largely dependent on which variant of the FADS1 gene a person carries. This has an effect on, for example, how effectively a linoleic acid supplement can lower fasting glucose levels.
Moreover, depending on the gene variant, increased intake of linoleic acid can make a person’s CRP levels rise or fall.
The FADS1 gene variant also had an effect on the levels of inflammation mediators, which are created from the metabolites of linoleic acid and other omega 6 fatty acids. The study was conducted in collaboration with Karolinska Institutet, and the findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.