Dietary arachidonic acid to EPA and DHA balance is increased among Canadian pregnant women with low fish intake.J Nutr. 2009 Dec; 139(12):2344-50.JN
Arachidonic [ARA, 20:4(n-6)], eicosapentaenoic [EPA, 20:5(n-3)], and docosahexaenoic acids [DHA, 22:6(n-3)] occur in the diet in animal tissue lipids, play important roles in human development and health, but have interactive and opposing functions. Meat and poultry have higher ARA and fish are richer in EPA and DHA. National databases were recently revised to include complete data on ARA in foods. We used a validated FFQ and the revised nutrient databases to quantify the distribution of ARA, EPA, and DHA intakes and balance for 204 healthy Canadian pregnant women. We focused on intake distributions because risk of adverse health effects increases at lower nutrient intakes. RBC fatty acids were analyzed concurrenly with dietary assessment. The distribution of ARA, EPA, and DHA intakes were skewed (P < 0.001), with a median (5-95th percentile) of 107 (41-225), 65 (10-228), and 105 (10-430) mg/d ARA, EPA, and DHA, respectively. Fish provided 66 and 76% of EPA and DHA, respectively, whereas eggs, poultry, and meats provided 81% of ARA. Women consuming <101 g fish/wk consumed less EPA and DHA and had markedly elevated median dietary ARA:EPA and ARA:DHA ratios and RBC lipid ARA:EPA + DHA ratios compared with women consuming >or=101 g fish/wk (P < 0.001). Relatively small increases in fish intake of 1-2 servings (25-50 g)/wk corrected the distorted dietary (n-6):(n-3) fatty acid balance among women consuming meats, but not fish. Median fish and DHA intakes below the recommended 1-2 servings/wk fish for pregnant women suggest major changes in the availability, cost, or acceptance of fish are needed.