Alpha-Linolenic and Linoleic Fatty Acids in the Vegan Diet: Do They Require Dietary Reference Intake/Adequate Intake Special Consideration?
Good sources of the long-chain n-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) include cold-water fish and seafood; however, vegan diets (VGNs) do not include animal-origin foods. Typically, US omnivores obtain enough dietary EPA and DHA, but unless VGNs consume algal n-3 supplements, they rely on endogenous production of long-chain fatty acids. VGN diets have several possible concerns: (1) VGNs have high intakes of linoleic acid (LA) as compared to omnivore/non-vegetarian diets. (2) High intakes of LA competitively interfere with the endogenous conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to EPA and DHA. (3) High somatic levels of LA/low ALA indicate a decreased ALA conversion to EPA and DHA. (4) Some, not all VGNs meet the Dietary Reference Intake Adequate Intake (DRI-AI) for dietary ALA and (5) VGN diets are high in fiber, which possibly interferes with fat absorption. Consequently, health professionals and Registered Dietitians/Registered Dietitian Nutritionists working with VGNs need specific essential fatty acid diet guidelines. The purpose of this review was: (1) to suggest that VGNs have a DRI-AI Special Consideration requirement for ALA and LA based on VGN dietary and biochemical indicators of status and (2) to provide suggestions to ensure that VGNs receive adequate intakes of LA and ALA.
Nutrients. 2019 Oct 4;11(10):2365. doi: 10.3390/nu11102365. PMID: 31590264; PMCID: PMC6835948.