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Achieving optimal n-3 fatty acid status: the vegetarian's challenge... or not.

Abstract

The long chain n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), although originally synthesized by microorganisms in the oceans, are primarily obtained from the consumption of fish. Vegetarians, by definition, do not eat fish and thus consume virtually no EPA and DHA. Because conversion of the plant-derived n-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid (ALA) to EPA and DHA is very low, n-3 tissue concentrations in vegetarians are lower than in omnivores. This review asks 2 questions: what is the evidence that increased n-3 concentrations reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in vegetarians, and, if it does, how can vegetarians increase their blood and tissue concentrations of these animal-derived fatty acids? At present, both cardiovascular risk markers and cardiovascular events appear to be significantly reduced in vegetarians compared with those in omnivores. If so, and in the absence of data to show that risk in vegetarians could be even lower with higher n-3 concentrations, then the second question becomes moot. However, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; therefore, at our present state of knowledge, increasing n-3 concentrations is not an unreasonable goal for vegetarians. This can be accomplished by a variety of approaches, including increased intakes of ALA, consumption of stearidonic acid-enriched soybean oil (if and when it comes to the market), and the use of supplements containing EPA, DHA, or both derived from nonanimal sources (microalgae, biotech yeast, and, in the future, biotech plant oils).

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  • Publisher Full Text
  • Authors+Show Affiliations

    From Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc, Richmond, VA; OmegaQuant Analytics LLC, Sioux Falls, SD; and Department of Medicine, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD.

    Source

    The American journal of clinical nutrition 100 Suppl 1: 2014 Jul pg 449S-52S

    MeSH

    Cardiovascular Diseases
    Diet, Vegetarian
    Dietary Supplements
    Fatty Acids, Omega-3
    Humans
    Nutritional Status
    Nutritive Value

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Review

    Language

    eng

    PubMed ID

    24898239

    Citation

    Harris, William S.. "Achieving Optimal N-3 Fatty Acid Status: the Vegetarian's Challenge... or Not." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 100 Suppl 1, 2014, 449S-52S.
    Harris WS. Achieving optimal n-3 fatty acid status: the vegetarian's challenge... or not. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100 Suppl 1:449S-52S.
    Harris, W. S. (2014). Achieving optimal n-3 fatty acid status: the vegetarian's challenge... or not. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100 Suppl 1, 449S-52S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.071324.
    Harris WS. Achieving Optimal N-3 Fatty Acid Status: the Vegetarian's Challenge... or Not. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100 Suppl 1:449S-52S. PubMed PMID: 24898239.
    * Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
    TY - JOUR T1 - Achieving optimal n-3 fatty acid status: the vegetarian's challenge... or not. A1 - Harris,William S, Y1 - 2014/06/04/ PY - 2014/6/6/entrez PY - 2014/6/6/pubmed PY - 2015/5/2/medline SP - 449S EP - 52S JF - The American journal of clinical nutrition JO - Am. J. Clin. Nutr. VL - 100 Suppl 1 N2 - The long chain n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), although originally synthesized by microorganisms in the oceans, are primarily obtained from the consumption of fish. Vegetarians, by definition, do not eat fish and thus consume virtually no EPA and DHA. Because conversion of the plant-derived n-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid (ALA) to EPA and DHA is very low, n-3 tissue concentrations in vegetarians are lower than in omnivores. This review asks 2 questions: what is the evidence that increased n-3 concentrations reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in vegetarians, and, if it does, how can vegetarians increase their blood and tissue concentrations of these animal-derived fatty acids? At present, both cardiovascular risk markers and cardiovascular events appear to be significantly reduced in vegetarians compared with those in omnivores. If so, and in the absence of data to show that risk in vegetarians could be even lower with higher n-3 concentrations, then the second question becomes moot. However, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; therefore, at our present state of knowledge, increasing n-3 concentrations is not an unreasonable goal for vegetarians. This can be accomplished by a variety of approaches, including increased intakes of ALA, consumption of stearidonic acid-enriched soybean oil (if and when it comes to the market), and the use of supplements containing EPA, DHA, or both derived from nonanimal sources (microalgae, biotech yeast, and, in the future, biotech plant oils). SN - 1938-3207 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/24898239/full_citation L2 - https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-lookup/doi/10.3945/ajcn.113.071324 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -