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A Journal on Pediatrics, Neonatology, Adolescent Medicine,
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Indexed/Abstracted in: CAB, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
Impact Factor 0,532

Frequency: Bi-Monthly

ISSN 0026-4946

Online ISSN 1827-1715


Minerva Pediatrica 2008 April;60(2):219-33


The essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3: from their discovery to their use in therapapy

Caramia G.

Dipartimento di Pediatria e Neonatologia Azienda Ospedaliera Materno Infantile “G.Salesi”, Ancona, Italia

In 1929 Burr and Burr discovered the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3. Since then, researchers have shown a growing interest in unsaturated essential fatty acids as they form the framework for the organism’s cell membranes, particularly the neurones in the brain, are involved in the energy-transformation process, regulate the information flows between cells. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are also precursors of “hormonal” molecules, often with opposing effects, prostaglandins, prostacyclins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes, lipossines, resolvines, protectines that regulate immunity, platelet aggregation, inflammation, etc. They showed that raised levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids omega-3 in tissue correlate with a reduced incidence of degenerative cardiovascular disease, some mental illnesses such as depression, and neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The balance between omega-3 and omega-6 acids allows the cell membranes to develop with exactly the right flexibility and fluidity, to carry messages between neurones, that is a determining factor in physical and mental well-being and has a profound influence on all the body’s inflammatory responses. The results of a number of scientific studies suggest that omega-3 acids contribute to measuring and restricting inflammatory symptoms, whereas omega-6 acids (and saturated fats) give free range to inflammatory responses and amplify allergic reactions. Today in the Western countries, the ratio of omega-3 acids to omega-6 in the diet is weighted 1:10 in favour of omega-6 to up to 1:25 in some areas, while for proper functioning a 4:1 ratio of omega-6 acids to omega-3 acids is generally considered the optimum. In addition, the type of diet followed in the Western countries is very rich in saturated fats like butter and animal fats, but because of an excessive supply of these less noble fats, the cell membranes lose flexibility and this can affect the way they work. An appropriate supplement can be an efficient, effective and often necessary way to meet the body’s needs, enhance its daily functions and promote health and longevity.

language: Italian


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