Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity.

January 1, 2006 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity.

Year: 2006
Authors: Hibbeln, JR, Nieminen, LRG, Blasbalg, TL, et al.
Publication Name: Am. J. Clin. Nutr.
Publication Details: Volume 83, Page 1483S.


The objective of this paper was to estimate dietary allowances for the omega 3 LCFAs that would meet the nutrient requirements of 97–98% of the population. Current recommendations for omega 3 LCFA intake are not specified by the Institute of Medicine, but have been estimated at 130–260 mg/day. Other recommendations range from 200 mg/day in the Netherlands to 1 g/day for persons with documented CHD as advised by the American Heart Association. In order to determine adequate dietary allowances, the authors estimated deficiency in omega 3 LCFA intakes as correlated to rates of 13 morbidity and mortality outcomes, including all causes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, homicide, bipolar disorder, and major and postpartum depressions, using data from 38 countries. For example, age-adjusted mortality due to cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and all-cause mortality for both men and women for 1995, or the closest available year, from World Health Organization annual mortality data were used. Previously published rates of homicide mortality and prevalence rates of postpartum depression, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder in comparison with the seafood disappearance data were used. Dietary availability of omega 3 fatty acids for these population groups as well as tissue compositional data were then correlated by best fit analysis to each illness and deficiency risk models were determined. These models indicated that the diets and tissue compositions common in Japan meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all the healthy population. The potential attributable burden of disease ranged from 20.8% (all-cause mortality in men) to 99.9% (bipolar disorder) for ranges of omega 3 LCFA intakes. In the Japanese population, estimated omega 3 LCFA intakes of 0.37% of energy, or 750mg/day, met criteria for uniformly protecting >98% of the population. Further extrapolation of the omega 3 LCFA intakes that would be required to meet a tissue target representative of Japan (with 60% omega 3 in LCFA) ranged from 278 mg/day in the Philippines (intakes of 0.8% of energy as LA, 0.08% of energy as ALA) to 3667 mg/day in the United States (8.91% of energy as LA and 1.06% of energy as ALA). The authors emphasize that inadequate information is available to determine whether it is safe or unsafe to consume 9% of all calories as LA as in the US. LA is a precursor to the proinflammatory arachidonic acid. The increases in world LA consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression, and cardiovascular mortality. Because LA constitutes such a large percent of calories in the US diet, the authors believe that large-scale intervention trials to determine whether lowering intakes can reduce cardiovascular risk and psychiatric morbidity, should be undertaken. Increasing tissue concentrations of omega 3 LCFAs on a population level may result in a substantial decrease in health care costs. Overall, the data suggest a healthy dietary allowance for omega 3 LCFAs for current US diets as 3.5 g/day for a 2000-kcal diet, an amount that could be reduced significantly should LA levels be lowered in the overall diet.

Back to Databases

Affiliated Organizations

Flax Focus Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with important flax news and announcements with our FLAX FOCUS newsletter.