Randomised controlled trials (RCT) of mixed n-6 and n-3 PUFA diets, and meta-analyses of their CHD outcomes, have been considered decisive evidence in specifically advising consumption of ‘at least 5–10 % of energy as n-6 PUFA’. Here we (1) performed an extensive literature search and extracted detailed dietary and outcome data enabling a critical examination of all RCT that increased PUFA and reported relevant CHD outcomes; (2) determined if dietary interventions increased n-6 PUFA with specificity, or increased both n-3 and n-6 PUFA (i.e. mixed n-3/n-6 PUFA diets); (3) compared mixed n-3/n-6 PUFA to n-6 specific PUFA diets on relevant CHD outcomes in meta-analyses; (4) evaluated the potential confounding role of trans-fatty acids (TFA). n-3 PUFA intakes were increased substantially in four of eight datasets, and the n-6 PUFA linoleic acid was raised with specificity in four datasets. n-3 and n-6 PUFA replaced a combination of TFA and SFA in all eight datasets. For non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI)+CHD death, the pooled risk reduction for mixed n-3/n-6 PUFA diets was 22 % (risk ratio (RR) 0·78; 95 % CI 0·65, 0·93) compared to an increased risk of 13 % for n-6 specific PUFA diets (RR 1·13; 95 % CI 0·84, 1·53). Risk of non-fatal MI+CHD death was significantly higher in n-6 specific PUFA diets compared to mixed n-3/n-6 PUFA diets (P = 0·02). RCT that substituted n-6 PUFA for TFA and SFA without simultaneously increasing n-3 PUFA produced an increase in risk of death that approached statistical significance (RR 1·16; 95 % CI 0·95, 1·42). Advice to specifically increase n-6 PUFA intake, based on mixed n-3/n-6 RCT data, is unlikely to provide the intended benefits, and may actually increase the risks of CHD and death.
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