New discovery about omega-3 can improve “precision nutrition” for better health

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Understanding how our genes influence our ability to benefit from healthy fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 is a crucial step toward personalized nutrition—where our diets are tailored to our unique genetic makeup.

These healthy fats are essential for our overall health, as they play a role in maintaining a robust immune system, reducing the risk of heart disease, and even potentially preventing serious illnesses like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

While there has been substantial research on how genes affect the utilization of these fats in people of European descent, not much attention has been given to those of Hispanic and African descent.

This disparity prompted researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine to investigate and uncover how our genes influence the utilization of Omega-3 and Omega-6 in these diverse populations.

Healthy Fats and Their Roles

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are often referred to as “healthy fats.” These fats can be obtained from our diet or supplements and play vital roles in maintaining our health.

Omega-3 supports a robust immune system and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Omega-6 is crucial for immune health and offers various other health benefits. Moreover, both of these fats are essential for the proper functioning of our cells.

People with higher levels of these fatty acids in their bloodstream are thought to be at a lower risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, and other serious illnesses.

Understanding how our genes influence our ability to use these fats can help us make informed dietary choices for better health.

Uncovering Genetic Influence

To explore the genetic differences in utilizing Omega-3 and Omega-6 among Hispanic and African populations, the researchers collected data from over 1,400 Hispanic-Americans and more than 2,200 African-Americans.

This data was gathered through the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium—a global initiative focused on large-scale genetic analyses.

The findings revealed both similarities and differences among the groups. Some genetic factors that influence fatty-acid metabolism in people of European descent also applied to Hispanic and African descent populations.

However, the study unveiled previously unknown genetic sources of variation in fatty-acid levels within these diverse groups.

Why These Differences Matter

These genetic variations help explain why different populations utilize fatty acids differently.

For instance, the research sheds light on why Hispanic individuals with significant American Indigenous ancestry tend to have lower levels of fatty acids in their blood.

Understanding these variations can pave the way for future studies examining how differences in fatty-acid utilization may impact the outcomes of diseases like cancer and immune system function.

With this knowledge, we can move closer to achieving “precision nutrition”—customized diets or strategic supplementation designed to improve health outcomes based on an individual’s genetic makeup.


Our genes have a significant influence on how we utilize healthy fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6. By studying diverse populations, researchers are uncovering genetic variations that were previously unknown.

These findings lay the foundation for future studies to explore how these differences may impact our health and how personalized nutrition can be used to improve health outcomes.

In the quest for precision nutrition, understanding our unique genetic makeup is a vital step toward living healthier, longer lives.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies about why vitamin K is so important for older people, and this snack food may harm your heart rhythm.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about vitamin that may protect you from type 2 diabetes, and results showing this common chemical in food may harm your blood pressure.

The research findings can be found in Communications Biology.

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