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J Am Diet Assoc. 1991 Mar;91(3):331-7.

Omega-3 fatty acids: comparison of plant and seafood sources in human nutrition.


Omega-3 Fatty acids (omega-3FAs) are found in seafoods, some plants, and some livestock rations. Fish oils are the only concentrated source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5 omega-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6 omega-3). The major omega-3FA in plants is alpha-linolenic acid (LNA; 18:3 omega-3). LNA must be converted to EPA before it exerts biological effects similar to EPA, such as reduced platelet aggregation. Human beings convert LNA to EPA to a small extent only. LNA may be more readily oxidized than incorporated into tissues. The effects of consuming LNA-rich oils are more modest than the effects of EPA-rich oils. Evidence suggests that omega-3FAs are essential and highly desirable for brain and eye development and heart health. LNA is the only source of omega-3FAs for vegetarians. Because LNA and EPA are not biologically equivalent, food composition data or product claims mentioning total omega-3FA content must clarify the individual omega-3FAs present.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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