"...all doctors should be able to diagnose and treat nutritional deficiencies."

Royal College of Physicians. Nutrition and Patients: A Doctor's Responsibility. London 2002

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Essential Fatty Acids

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Essential Fatty Acids Omega-3

The omega-3 series essential fatty acids is one of the two families of EFAs which have structural and functional properties in the body.  The parent omega-3 EFA is alpha-linolenic acid, ALA, which is converted in the body to EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid and then to DHA, docosahexaenoic acid.  These latter two EFAs have a long chain carbon structure and are found in oily fish.  They are not strictly essential as they can be made from the parent omega-3, ALA, but efficiency of production probably varies significantly from person to person and current UK guidelines recommend inclusion of at least one portion of oily fish in a person’s diet per week.  However significant improvement in EFA status can be made by choosing good sources of land oils as well as eating oily fish. 

Adult Requirements and Intakes
Men
Women
Estimated Average Requirements g/day
None set
None set
Mean Intakes g/day – NDNS data
2.27
1.71

Use of Omega-3 Supplements (Fish Oil Preparations) NDNS

 
Infants
1.5 to 4.5 yrs
Children
4 to 18 yrs
Adults
19 to 64 yrs
Elderly –
Free-living
> 65 yrs
Elderly –
Institutional
> 65 yrs
Males
1%
1%
13%
18%
2%
Females
1%
14%
22%
2%

Content of Individual Foods

Food           EFA Omega-3 Content (mg) per 100g
 
Total omega-3
Alpha-linolenic acid
EPA
DHA
Walnut Oil 11.5 11.5 0 0
Rapeseed oil 9.6 9.6 0 0
Olive oil 0.7 0.7 0 0
Sunflower oil 0.1 0.1 0 0
Cod liver oil 24.4 1.1 10.8 8.3
Blackcurrant seed oil 15.1 12.4 0 0
Evening Primrose oil 0.12 0.12 0 0
Borage Oil 0.33 0.33 0 0
Mackerel, raw 2.78 0.22 0.71 1.1
Herring, raw 1.83 0.18 0.51 0.69
Sardines, tinned in tomato 2.11 0.16 0.89 0.68
Pilchards, tinned in tomato 2.97 0.07 1.117 1.2
Sprats, raw 2.68 0.08 0.93 1.35
Cod, raw 0.26 Trace 0.08 0.16
Haddock, raw 0.17 Trace 0.05 0.1
Plaice, raw 0.32 0 0.16 0.1
Mussels, boiled 0.68 0.02 0.41 0.16
Crab, boiled 1.1 0.02 0.47 0.45
Prawns, frozen, raw 0.11 0 0.06 0.04
Tinned tuna in brine 0.17 0 0.02 0.14
Fresh tuna, bluefin, raw^     0.16 1.14
Fresh tuna, skipjack, raw^     0.071 0.185

^ United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, Standard Release 20.
www.ars.usda.gov/Aboutus/docs.htm?docid=6300


Essential Fatty Acids Omega-6

The omega-6 series essential fatty acids is one of the two families of EFAs which have structural and functional properties in the body.  The parent omega-6 EFA is linoleic acid, LA, which is converted in the body to GLA, gamma-linolenic acid and then to AA, arachidonic acid.  These latter two EFAs have a long chain carbon structure and are found in certain oils and meat respectively.  They are not essential as they can be made from the parent omega-3, ALA, but efficiency of production probably varies significantly from person to person.  However significant improvement in EFA status can be made by choosing good sources of land oils and not having an excessive intake of saturated fats from animal sources or trans fats from baked goods which have adverse effects upon cardiovascular health in particular. 

 

Adult Requirements and Intakes
Men
Women
Estimated Average Requirements g/day None set None set
Mean Intakes g/day – NDNS data 12.9 11.1

Use of Omega-6 Supplements (Evening Primrose and Borage Oil Preparations) NDNS

 
Infants
1.5 to 4.5 yrs
Children
4 to 18 yrs
Adults
19 to 64 yrs
Elderly –
Free-living
> 65 yrs
Elderly –
Institutional
> 65 yrs
Males None <1% 1% 1% None
Females None <1% 9% 2% None

Content of Individual Foods

Food EFA Omega-6 Content (mg) per 100g
 
Total omega-6
Linoleic Acid
Gamma-linolenic Acid
Arachidonic Acid
Walnut Oil 58.4 58.4 0 0
Rapeseed oil 19.7 19.7 0 0
Olive oil 7.5 7.5 0 0
Sunflower oil 63.2 63.2 0 0
Evening Primrose oil 76.9 68.8 8.12 0
Cod liver oil 3.5 2.6 0 0.9
Mackerel, raw 0.21   0 0
Herring, raw 0.32 0.29 0 0.04
Sardines tinned in tomato 1.04 0.96 0.02 0.04
Tinned tuna in brine 0.04 0.01 0 0.02
Almonds 10.2 10.2 0 0
Walnuts 39.3 39.3 0 0
Hazelnuts 6.5 6.5 0 0
Peanuts 12.8 12.7 0 0
Sunflower seeds 28.1 28.1 0 0
Pumpkin seeds 21.6 21.6 0 0
Evening primrose oil 76.9 68.8 8.12 0
Blackcurrant seed oil 60 45.4 14.6 0
Borage oil 55.9 35.3 20.4 0
Sunflower oil margarine 33.4 33.3 0 0
Lard 9.16 8.54 0.06 0.11
Eggs, chicken 1.61 1.6 0 0

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Copyright Dr. Alan Stewart M.B.B.S.M.R.C.P. (UK)M.F. Hom.
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