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Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vegetarian diets

This is a republished version of an article previously published in MJA Open

Vegetarians have a lower overall risk of common chronic diseases, possibly due to a lower saturated fat and cholesterol intake than non-vegetarians.1 However, vegetarians (and those who eat minimal amounts of oily fish) may be at a disadvantage where intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs) is concerned, and this could potentially counteract some health benefits of the vegetarian diet. In this article, we review EFA intake and status of vegetarians and consider whether current intakes in this population are sufficient to achieve and maintain optimal health. We also explore the potential benefits of adding supplemental sources of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) derived from microalgae, and make practical suggestions for optimising EFA status in vegetarians.

Functional and biological aspects of EFAs

Fats in foods and the body contain saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), the latter comprising omega-6 (n-6)…