Limited evidence for benefits of omega-6 fats for prevention of cardiovascular disease

Limited evidence for benefits of omega-6 fats for prevention of cardiovascular disease

Brian McAvoy
Clinical question

What are the effects of increasing omega‐6 fats (linoleic acid, gamma‐linolenic acid, dihomo‐gamma‐linolenic acid and arachidonic acid) on cardiovascular disease and all‐cause mortality?

Bottom line

There was low-quality evidence that increasing omega‐6 fats reduced the risk of myocardial infarction (number needed to treat to benefit = 53). Increasing omega‐6 fats made little or no difference to all‐cause mortality or CVD events (low‐quality evidence), and the effects on CVD mortality, coronary heart disease, stroke and major adverse cardiac and cerebrovascular events were uncertain (very-low‐quality evidence). Increasing omega‐6 fats reduced blood cholesterol (high‐quality evidence), probably had little or no effect on body weight adjusted for height (moderate‐quality evidence), and made little or no difference to triglycerides, high‐density lipoprotein and low‐density lipoprotein (low‐quality evidence). Although benefits of omega‐6 fats remain to be proven, increasing omega‐6 fats may be of benefit in people at high risk of MI.


Evidence was weakened by study design problems, small numbers of events, low numbers of participants from developing countries and few women.


Some evidence suggests that a higher intake of omega‐6 fats, along with a lower intake of saturated fat, can reduce CHD. In contrast, there is concern that high levels of omega‐6 fats may worsen cardiovascular risk by increasing inflammation.

Cochrane Systematic Review

Hooper Let al. Omega-6 fats for the prevention of primary and secondary cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Reviews, 2018, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD011094. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011094.pub4. This review contains 19 studies involving 6461 participants.