alpha-Linolenic acid supplementation and conversion to n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in humans

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. Feb-Mar 2009;80(2-3):85-91. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2009.01.004. Epub 2009 Mar 9.

Abstract

Blood levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are considered biomarkers of status. Alpha-linolenic acid, ALA, the plant omega-3, is the dietary precursor for the long-chain omega-3 PUFA eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Studies in normal healthy adults consuming western diets, which are rich in linoleic acid (LA), show that supplemental ALA raises EPA and DPA status in the blood and in breast milk. However, ALA or EPA dietary supplements have little effect on blood or breast milk DHA levels, whereas consumption of preformed DHA is effective in raising blood DHA levels. Addition of ALA to the diets of formula-fed infants does raise DHA, but no level of ALA tested raises DHA to levels achievable with preformed DHA at intakes similar to typical human milk DHA supply. The DHA status of infants and adults consuming preformed DHA in their diets is, on average, greater than that of people who do not consume DHA. With no other changes in diet, improvement of blood DHA status can be achieved with dietary supplements of preformed DHA, but not with supplementation of ALA, EPA, or other precursors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / metabolism*
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid / pharmacology*

Substances

  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6
  • alpha-Linolenic Acid
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid