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TalkingNutrition

Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

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Could Mars-Venus Differences in Fat Metabolism affect CVD Risk?

By Michael McBurney

Understanding differences between men and women in their relationships was the basis of the best selling book entitled, “Men are from Mar, Women are from Venus”. In his book, Dr John Gray provides insights into sex-based differences in brain and body chemistry which impact relationships, romance, and health. New research suggests that there are sex-specific differences in metabolism of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA.

Decsi and Kennedy report that sex hormone differences between men and women may lead to differences in PUFA metabolism. According to stable isotope studies, women are better able to desaturate and elongate α-linolenic acid (ALA) via eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) then men. Although the difference is moderate, and the results need to be confirmed, the findings suggest that women have a greater ability to synthesize longer chain PUFA from their omega-3 fatty acid precursors. This adaptation would be beneficial, especially during pregnancy and lactation, when women are the nutritional source DHA and EPA for their children.

Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent cardiovascular disease. An evidence-based review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded that omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, and ALA) help reduce mortality and cardiovascular outcomes. The report also indicated that men consume significantly less ALA than women.

More than 70% of premature heart disease deaths, i.e. younger than 65 years, occur in men according to the Centers for Disease Control. Could this reflect the poorer intake of omega-3 fatty acids by men and a sex difference in the creation of inflammatory mediators via PUFA metabolism? Maybe?


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