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Life Extension Magazine November 2012


Dietary intake and status of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a population of fish-eating and non-fish-eating meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans and the product-precursor ratio [corrected] of α-linolenic acid to long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: results from the EPIC-Norfolk cohort.

BACKGROUND: Intakes of n-3 (omega-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are important for health. Because fish is the major source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), non-fish-eaters may have suboptimal n-3 PUFA status, although the importance of the conversion of plant-derived α-linolenic acid (ALA) to EPA and DHA is debated. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to determine intakes, food sources, and status of n-3 PUFAs according to dietary habit (fish-eaters and non-fish-eating meat-eaters, vegetarians, or vegans) and estimated conversion between dietary ALA and circulating long-chain n-3 PUFAs. DESIGN: This study included 14,422 men and women aged 39-78 y from the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition)-Norfolk cohort with 7-d diary data and a substudy in 4902 individuals with plasma phospholipid fatty acid measures. Intakes and status of n-3 PUFAs were measured, and the product-precursor ratio [corrected] of ALA to circulating n-3 PUFAs was calculated. RESULTS: Most of the dietary intake of EPA and DHA was supplied by fish; however, meat was the major source in meat-eaters, and spreading fats, soups, and sauces were the major sources in vegetarians. Total n-3 PUFA intakes in non-fish-eaters were 57-80% of those in fish-eaters, but status differences were considerably smaller [corrected]. The estimated product-precursor ratio [corrected] was greater in women than in men and greater in non-fish-eaters than in fish-eaters. CONCLUSIONS: Substantial differences in intakes and in sources of n-3 PUFAs existed between the dietary-habit groups, but the differences in status were smaller than expected, possibly because the product-precursor ratio [corrected] was greater in non-fish-eaters than in fish-eaters, potentially indicating increased estimated conversion of ALA. If intervention studies were to confirm these findings, it could have implications for fish requirements.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1040-51

Very low n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status in Austrian vegetarians and vegans.

BACKGROUND/AIMS: The objective of the study was to collect data on dietary fat intake of omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and semi-omnivores as well as its impact on n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in long-term markers such as sphingolipids, phosphatidylcholine (PC), phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) as well as the calculated sphingo- and phospholipids (SPL) of erythrocytes. METHOD: The present observational study included 98 Austrian adult volunteers of both genders, of which 23 were omnivores, 25 vegetarians, 37 vegans, and 13 semi-omnivores. Information on anthropometry using measured body weight and height was obtained. The amount and composition of ingested fat were calculated from 24-hour recalls and the fatty acid pattern in the phospholipids was assessed using gas chromatography. RESULTS: The unbalanced n-6/n-3 ratio and the limited dietary sources of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in vegans and vegetarians led to reductions in C20:5n-3, C22:5n-3, C22:6n-3 and total n-3 fatty acids in SPL, PC, PS and PE compared with omnivores and semi-omnivores. The total content of polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids remained unchanged. CONCLUSION: The vegetarian diet, with an average n-6/n-3 ratio of 10/1, promotes biochemical n-3 tissue decline. To ensure physical, mental and neurological health vegetarians have to reduce the n-6/n-3 ratio with an additional intake of direct sources of EPA and DHA, regardless of age and gender.

Ann Nutr Metab. 2008;52(1):37-47

DHA status of vegetarians.

BACKGROUND: Docosahexae-noic acid (22:6n-3; DHA) is absent from vegan diets and present in limited amounts in vegetarian diets. OBJECTIVE: To review DHA status in vegetarians and vegans. DESIGN: To identify published studies and review their findings. RESULTS: Dietary analyses show that vegan diets are devoid of DHA and vegetarian diets that included dairy food and eggs only provide about 0.02 g DHA/d. Vegetarian and especially vegan diets supply more linoleic acid (18:2n-6) than omnivore diets. The intake of alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) also tends to be similar or greater but depends on culinary oils used. The proportions of DHA in plasma, blood cells, breast milk, and tissues are substantially lower in vegans and vegetarians compared with omnivores. The lower proportions of DHA are accompanied by correspondingly higher proportions of the long-chain derivatives of linoleic acid, indicating that the capacity to synthesize long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids is not limited. Short-term dietary supplementation with alpha-linolenic acid increases the proportion of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) but does not increase the proportion of DHA in blood lipids. Small amounts of preformed DHA (as low as 200 mg) result in a large increase in the proportion of DHA in blood lipids in vegetarians and vegans. There is no evidence of adverse effects on health or cognitive function with lower DHA intake in vegetarians. CONCLUSIONS: Preformed DHA in the diet of omnivores explains the relatively higher proportion of this fatty acid in blood and tissue lipids compared with vegetarians. The pathophysiological significance of this difference remains to be determined.

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Aug-Sep;81(2-3):137-41

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): an ancient nutrient for the modern human brain.

Modern humans have evolved with a staple source of preformed docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the diet. An important turning point in human evolution was the discovery of high-quality, easily digested nutrients from coastal seafood and inland freshwater sources. Multi-generational exploitation of seafood by shore-based dwellers coincided with the rapid expansion of grey matter in the cerebral cortex, which characterizes the modern human brain. The DHA molecule has unique structural properties that appear to provide optimal conditions for a wide range of cell membrane functions. This has particular implications for grey matter, which is membrane-rich tissue. An important metabolic role for DHA has recently been identified as the precursor for resolvins and protectins. The rudimentary source of DHA is marine algae; therefore it is found concentrated in fish and marine oils. Unlike the photosynthetic cells in algae and higher plants, mammalian cells lack the specific enzymes required for the de novo synthesis of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the precursor for all omega-3 fatty acid syntheses. Endogenous synthesis of DHA from ALA in humans is much lower and more limited than previously assumed. The excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids in the modern Western diet further displaces DHA from membrane phospholipids. An emerging body of research is exploring a unique role for DHA in neurodevelopment and the prevention of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. DHA is increasingly being added back into the food supply as fish oil or algal oil supplementation.

Nutrients. 2011 May;3(5):529-54

Bioequivalence of Docosahexaenoic acid from different algal oils in capsules and in a DHA-fortified food.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, is important for eye and brain development and ongoing visual, cognitive, and cardiovascular health. Unlike fish-sourced oils, the bioavailability of DHA from vegetarian-sourced (algal) oils has not been formally assessed. We assessed bioequivalence of DHA oils in capsules from two different algal strains versus bioavailability from an algal-DHA-fortified food. Our 28-day randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel group study compared bioavailability of (a) two different algal DHA oils in capsules ("DHASCO-T" and "DHASCO-S") at doses of 200, 600, and 1,000 mg DHA per day (n = 12 per group) and of (b) an algal-DHA-fortified food (n = 12). Bioequivalence was based on changes in plasma phospholipid and erythrocyte DHA levels. Effects on arachidonic acid (ARA), docosapentaenoic acid-n-6 (DPAn-6), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were also determined. Both DHASCO-T and DHASCO-S capsules produced equivalent DHA levels in plasma phospholipids and erythrocytes. DHA response was dose-dependent and linear over the dose range, plasma phospholipid DHA increased by 1.17, 2.28 and 3.03 g per 100 g fatty acid at 200, 600, and 1,000 mg dose, respectively. Snack bars fortified with DHASCO-S oil also delivered equivalent amounts of DHA on a DHA dose basis. Adverse event monitoring revealed an excellent safety and tolerability profile. Two different algal oil capsule supplements and an algal oil-fortified food represent bioequivalent and safe sources of DHA.

Lipids. 2007 Nov;42(11):1011-24

Algal-oil capsules and cooked salmon: nutritionally equivalent sources of docosahexaenoic acid.

Food and nutrition professionals question whether supplement-sourced nutrients appear to be equivalent to those derived from natural food sources. We compared the nutritional availability of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from algal-oil capsules to that from assayed cooked salmon in 32 healthy men and women, ages 20 to 65 years, in a randomized, open-label, parallel-group study. In this 2-week study comparing 600 mg DHA/day from algal-oil capsules to that from assayed portions of cooked salmon, mean change from baseline in plasma phospholipids and erythrocyte DHA levels was analyzed and DHA levels were compared by Student's t tests. In post-hoc analyses to determine bioequivalence, least-squares mean ratios of percent change from baseline in plasma phospholipid and erythrocyte DHA levels were compared. DHA levels increased by approximately 80% in plasma phospholipids and by approximately 25% in erythrocytes in both groups. Changes in DHA levels in plasma phospholipids and erythrocytes were similar between groups. As measured by delivery of DHA to both plasma and erythrocytes, fish and algal-oil capsules were equivalent. Both regimens were generally well-tolerated. These results indicate that algal-oil DHA capsules and cooked salmon appear to be bioequivalent in providing DHA to plasma and red blood cells and, accordingly, that algal-oil DHA capsules represent a safe and convenient source of non-fish-derived DHA.

J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jul;108(7):1204-9

A meta-analysis shows that docosahexaenoic acid from algal oil reduces serum triglycerides and increases HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol in persons without coronary heart disease.

Certain algae contain the (n-3) fatty acid DHA, yet the relation between algal oil supplementation and cardiovascular disease risk factors has not been systematically examined. Our objective was to examine the relation between algal oil supplementation and cardiovascular disease risk factors. We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials published between 1996 and 2011 examining the relation between algal oil supplementation and cardiovascular disease risk factors and performed a meta-analysis of the association between algal oil DHA supplementation and changes in the concentrations of TG, LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C), and HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C). We identified 11 randomized controlled trials with 485 healthy participants that evaluated the relation between algal oil DHA supplementation and TG, LDL-C, and HDL-C. The median dose of algal DHA was 1.68 g/d. The pooled estimate for the change in TG concentration was -0.20 mmol/L (95% CI: -0.27 to -0.14), 0.23 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.16-0.30) for LDL-C, and 0.07 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.05-0.10) for HDL-C. DHA supplementation from algal oil, a marine source of (n-3) fatty acids not extracted from fish, may reduce serum TG and increase HDL-C and LDL-C in persons without coronary heart disease.

J Nutr. 2012 Jan;142(1):99-104

Endogenous signaling by omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid-derived mediators sustains homeostatic synaptic and circuitry integrity.

The harmony and function of the complex brain circuits and synapses are sustained mainly by excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, neurotrophins, gene regulation, and factors, many of which are incompletely understood. A common feature of brain circuit components, such as dendrites, synaptic membranes, and other membranes of the nervous system, is that they are richly endowed in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the main member of the omega-3 essential fatty acid family. DHA is avidly retained and concentrated in the nervous system and known to play a role in neuroprotection, memory, and vision. Only recently has it become apparent why the surprisingly rapid increases in free (unesterified) DHA pool size take place at the onset of seizures or brain injury. This phenomenon began to be clarified by the discovery of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), the first-uncovered bioactive docosanoid formed from free DHA through 15-lipoxygenase-1 (15-LOX-1). NPD1 synthesis includes, as agonists, oxidative stress and neurotrophins. The evolving concept is that DHA-derived docosanoids set in motion endogenous signaling to sustain homeostatic synaptic and circuit integrity. NPD1 is anti-inflammatory, displays inflammatory resolving activities, and induces cell survival, which is in contrast to the pro-inflammatory actions of the many of omega-6 fatty acid family members. We highlight here studies relevant to the ability of DHA to sustain neuronal function and protect synapses and circuits in the context of DHA signalolipidomics. DHA signalolipidomics comprises the integration of the cellular/tissue mechanism of DHA uptake, its distribution among cellular compartments, the organization and function of membrane domains containing DHA phospholipids, and the precise cellular and molecular events revealed by the uncovering of signaling pathways regulated by docosanoids endowed with prohomeostatic and cell survival bioactivity. Therefore, this approach offers emerging targets for prevention, pharmaceutical intervention, and clinical translation involving DHA-mediated signaling.

Mol Neurobiol. 2011 Oct;44(2):216-22

Docosahexaenoic acid promotes hippocampal neuronal development and synaptic function.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3), the major polyunsaturated fatty acid accumulated in the brain during development, has been implicated in learning and memory, but underlying cellular mechanisms are not clearly understood. Here, we demonstrate that DHA significantly affects hippocampal neuronal development and synaptic function in developing hippocampi. In embryonic neuronal cultures, DHA supplementation uniquely promoted neurite growth, synapsin puncta formation and synaptic protein expression, particularly synapsins and glutamate receptors. In DHA-supplemented neurons, spontaneous synaptic activity was significantly increased, mostly because of enhanced glutamatergic synaptic activity. Conversely, hippocampal neurons from DHA-depleted fetuses showed inhibited neurite growth and synaptogenesis. Furthermore, n-3 fatty acid deprivation during development resulted in marked decreases of synapsins and glutamate receptor subunits in the hippocampi of 18-day-old pups with concomitant impairment of long-term potentiation, a cellular mechanism underlying learning and memory. While levels of synapsins and NMDA receptor subunit NR2A were decreased in most hippocampal regions, NR2A expression was particularly reduced in CA3, suggesting possible role of DHA in CA3-NMDA receptor-dependent learning and memory processes. The DHA-induced neurite growth, synaptogenesis, synapsin, and glutamate receptor expression, and glutamatergic synaptic function may represent important cellular aspects supporting the hippocampus-related cognitive function improved by DHA.

J Neurochem. 2009 Oct;111(2):510-21

Docosahexaenoic acid signalolipidomics in nutrition: significance in aging, neuroinflammation, macular degeneration, Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are critical nutritional lipids that must be obtained from the diet to sustain homeostasis. Omega-3 and -6 PUFAs are key components of biomembranes and play important roles in cell integrity, development, maintenance, and function. The essential omega-3 fatty acid family member docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is avidly retained and uniquely concentrated in the nervous system, particularly in photoreceptors and synaptic membranes. DHA plays a key role in vision, neuroprotection, successful aging, memory, and other functions. In addition, DHA displays anti-inflammatory and inflammatory resolving properties in contrast to the proinflammatory actions of several members of the omega-6 PUFAs family. This review discusses DHA signalolipidomics, comprising the cellular/tissue organization of DHA uptake, its distribution among cellular compartments, the organization and function of membrane domains rich in DHA-containing phospholipids, and the cellular and molecular events revealed by the uncovering of signaling pathways regulated by DHA and docosanoids, the DHA-derived bioactive lipids, which include neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1), a novel DHA-derived stereoselective mediator. NPD1 synthesis agonists include neurotrophins and oxidative stress; NPD1 elicits potent anti-inflammatory actions and prohomeostatic bioactivity, is anti-angiogenic, promotes corneal nerve regeneration, and induces cell survival. In the context of DHA signalolipidomics, this review highlights aging and the evolving studies on the significance of DHA in Alzheimer's disease, macular degeneration, Parkinson's disease, and other brain disorders. DHA signalolipidomics in the nervous system offers emerging targets for pharmaceutical intervention and clinical translation.

Annu Rev Nutr. 2011 Aug 21;31:321-51