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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Review Updates on Omega-3 Long-chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids EPA & DHA

By Michael McBurney

Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) experts have been busy publishing reviews on the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The Early Nutrition Academy supported a systematic review of human studies on the roles of pre- and postnatal LCPUFA. Using the most recent studies (2008-2013), Koletzko and colleagues report:

    - Increased supply of n-3 LCPUFA during pregnancy reduces risk of preterm births before 34 weeks of gestation.

    - Pregnant women should consume ≥ 300 mg DHA daily.

    - Intakes of  600-800 mg DHA daily may provide greater protection against early preterm birth.

    - Breast-feeding women should consume ≥200 mg DHA daily to achieve a human milk DHA content of ~ 0.3% fatty acids.

    - Infant formula for term infants should contain 100 mg DHA and 140 mg arachidonic acid (ARA) daily.

The American Oil Chemists society held a joint symposium with The Omega-3 Centre in Australia. Nichols and colleagues summarized recent advances in omega-3 research.  Briefly:

    - Cardiovascular health: the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is greatest in those with low omega-3 status.

    - The incorporation of omega-3 fatty acids into red blood cells reflects intake.

    - The omega-3 index of red blood cell membranes is a quick, cost-effective clinical marker.

    - Future intervention trials should establish baseline DHA status in red blood cells and studies should have a duration of at least 16 weeks.

    - Because of limited capacity to endogenously elongate and desaturate shorter omega-3 LCPUFA, humans should consume EPA and DHA.

    - Seafood is a major dietary contributor of LCPUFA omega-3 oils but algal forms are efficacious, vegetarian alternatives.

Choose omega-3 LCPUFA products on their EPA and DHA content because bioavailability claims seem overrated.

Main Citations

Koletzko B, Boey CCM, Campoy C, Carlson SE, Chang N, Guillermo-Tuazon MA, Joshi S, Prell C, Quak SH, Sjarif DR, Su Y, Supapannachart S, Yamashiro Y, Osendarp SJM. Current information and Asian perspectives on long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy, lactation, and infancy: Systematic review and practice recommendations from an Early Nutrition Academy Workshop. 2014 Ann Nutr Metab doi: 10.1159/000365767

Nichols PD, McManus A, Krail K, Sinclair AJ, Miller M. Recent advances in omega-3: Health benefits, sources, products and bioavailability. 2014 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu6093727

Other Citation

Salem N, Kuratko CN. A reexamination of krill oil bioavailability studies. 2014 Lipids Health Dis doi: 10.1186/1476-511x-13-137