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Women’s Higher Risk with N-6 PUFA vs. Men’s Relative Advantage: An “N-6 Gender Nutrition Paradox” Hypothesis

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Click on the icon on the upper right hand side for the article by Niva Shapira, PhD, RD, Agr.
IMAJ 2012: 14: July: 435-441
Abstract

The Israeli Paradox“ (1996) of low national health rankings despite adequate diet – attributed to high dietary n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) – coincided with long-observed dichotomies between women’s worse international status vs. men’s advantage. This raised the assumption of a gender link to high n-6 risk as an explanation for both national phenomena. Israeli women’s disadvantage was shown by worse international rankings, i.e., life expectancy (LE), 11th vs. men’s 3rd-best/22 countries (2000), and 14th vs. 6th/34 (2010) all-cause and all-cancer mortality both 15th vs. 2nd-best/22 (2000), and 15th vs. 6th/22 and 12th vs. 2nd-best/22 (2010). Breast cancer mortality rates were +21.8%, vs. prostate -30.4%, compared to Eur-A (27 country) averages (2005). Gender gaps/ratios were smaller than European Union-15, i.e., LE at birth by 34.4–26.4% (2000–2010), respectively, and at 65 years 45.9–35.3% all-cause mortality by 43.3–33.4%, and all-cancer 65.2–58.7%. The Israeli diet was mostly close to guidelines, but n-6 intake (10–12% kcal) was much higher than both recommended and traditional Mediterranean diet“ levels. Research showing females’ greater potential for conversion of PUFA to long-chain PUFA (LCPUFA) may suggest their potentially increased production of n-6 eicosanoids with known pro-inflammatory/oxidative/carcinogenic potential. An N-6 Gender Nutrition Paradox“ hypothesis is suggested here, for the first time, associating women’s higher risk and lead in the national paradox“ with greater potential for n-6 conversion to pro-inflammatory/oxidative/carcinogenic eicosanoids compared to men. This may also exacerbate women’s risk associated with genetic predisposition (i.e., BRCA) and/or sociopolitical stress. Global abandonment of traditional diets/foods together with increasing n-6 consumption and western disease rates emphasize the importance of considering gender in nutritional epidemiology and preventive strategies.