Lipid metabolism, inflammation, oxidative stress and endothelial function play important roles in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which may be affected by an imbalance in the n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) ratio. This study aimed to investigate the effects of the n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio on these cardiovascular risk factors in rats fed a high-fat diet using plant oils as the main n-3 PUFA source. The 1:1 and 5:1 ratio groups had significantly decreased serum levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and proinflammatory cytokines compared with the 20:1 group (p < 0.05). Additionally, the 20:1 group had significantly increased serum levels of E-Selectin, von Willebrand factor (vWF), and numerous markers of oxidative stress compared with the other groups (p < 0.05). The 1:1 group had a significantly decreased lipid peroxide level compared with the other groups (p < 0.05). Serum levels of malondialdehyde, reactive oxygen species and vWF tended to increase with n-6/n-3 PUFA ratios increasing from 5:1 to 20:1.

We demonstrated that low n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio (1:1 and 5:1) had a beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk factors by enhancing favorable lipid profiles, having anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative stress effects, and improving endothelial function. A high n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio (20:1) had adverse effects.

Our results indicated that low n-6/n-3 PUFA ratios exerted beneficial cardiovascular effects, suggesting that plant oils could be used as a source of n-3 fatty acids to prevent CVD. They also suggested that we should be aware of possible adverse effects from excessive n-3 PUFA.