Vegans do not consume meat and fish and have therefore low intakes of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP). They may consequently have little negative feedback inhibition from dietary LCP on conversion of alpha -linolenic acid (ALA) to the LCP omega 3 eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. We investigated whether supplementation of nine apparently healthy vegans with 2.01 g ALA (4 ml linseed oil), 1.17 g gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (6 ml borage oil) or their combination increases the LCP omega 3 contents of erythrocytes (RBC) and platelets (PLT), and of plasma phospholipids (PL), cholesterol esters (CE) and triglycerides (TG). The supplements changed the dietary LA/ALA ratio (in g/g) from about 13.7 (baseline) to 6.8 (linseed oil), 14.3 (borage oil) and 6.4 (linseed + borage oil), respectively. ALA or GLA given as single supplements did not increase LCP omega 3 status, but their combination augmented LCP omega 3 (in CE) and EPA (in fasting TG) to a statistically significant, but nevertheless negligible, extent. We conclude that negative feedback inhibition by dietary LCP, if any, does not play an important role in the inability to augment notably DHA status by dietary ALA. The reach of a DHA plateau already at low dietary ALA intakes suggests that dietary DHA causes a non-functional DHA surplus, or is, alternatively, important for maintaining DHA status at a functionally relevant level.
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