Changes in fatty acid levels after consumption of a novel docosahexaenoic supplement from algae: a crossover randomized controlled trial in omnivorous, lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans

Eur J Nutr. 2022 Nov 23;1-15. doi: 10.1007/s00394-022-03050-3. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: To determine serum fatty acids of lacto-ovo vegetarian (LOV), vegan (VEG) and omnivorous (OMN) adults, and to analyse the effects of consuming a docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) supplement of vegetable origin on fatty acid profile.

Methods: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover design was conducted in healthy adults. Volunteers (n = 116) were randomly assigned to a DHA-supplement (dose 250 mg/day), made from the microalgae Schizochytrium sp., or a placebo during 5-week periods separated by a 5-week washout interim period. Compliance and dietary intake were estimated and serum fatty acids were determined by gas chromatography. Results were analysed by mixed linear models.

Results: Percentage of linoleic acid (C18:2n6) in serum was the highest among the fatty acids in the three diet groups, followed by oleic (C18:1n9) and palmitic (C16:0) acids. Linoleic (C18:2n6) and alpha-linolenic (C18:3n3) acids were higher in VEG compared to OMN (p < 0.001), while in LOV, their levels were intermediate between the other groups. Women presented higher DHA (C22:6n3) than men (p < 0.001). The DHA-supplement increased serum DHA compared to placebo in the three diet groups (p < 0.001), and a higher increase was observed in VEG followed by LOV (p < 0.001). The ratio serum n-6/n-3 improved by the supplementation but remained higher in LOV and VEG than in OMN. In contrast, the DHA-supplement decreased docosapentaenoic (C22:5n3) and docosatetraenoic (C22:4n6) acids in all diet groups (p < 0.001) and increased the eicosapentaenoic to alpha-linolenic fatty acids ratio (p = 0.016).

Conclusion: The DHA-supplement at dose of 250 mg/day was effective in increasing serum DHA either in omnivorous, lacto-ovo vegetarian and vegan adults.

Clinical trial registration: Registered at ( www.

Clinicaltrials: gov ), NCT04278482.

Keywords: Docosahexaenoic acid; Fatty acids; Omega-3; Omega-6; Supplementation; Vegan; Vegetarian.

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