Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vegetarians Make Plenty of Essential Fats (DHA)

Vegetarians Make Plenty of Essential Fats (DHA)

DHA status of vegetarians by Thomas Sanders in the August-September 2009 issue of the journal Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids concluded, “…the relatively lower intake of linoleic acid and the presence of preformed DHA (fish) in the diet of omnivores explain the relatively higher proportion of DHA in blood and tissue lipids compared with vegetarians. In the absence of convincing evidence for the deleterious effects resulting from the lack of DHA from the diet of vegetarians, it must be concluded that needs for omega-3 fatty acids can be met by dietary ALA (alpha linolenic acid).”1 ALA is made by plants.

Comment: Your well-meaning friends and family may insist you eat fish in order to get enough of the essential fat DHA for the sake of your brain. The two fatty acids (fats) that are essential for human health are the omega-3 alpha, linolenic acid (18:3n-3; ALA) and the omega-6, linoleic acid (18:2n-6; LA). Only plants can synthesize these two fats. No animal or fish can make these fats, but they can be stored in their bodies. These essential fats are converted in animals, including fish, to longer chain derivatives, such as DHA and EPA. DHA, which stands for docosahexaenoic acid, is a type of fat found abundant in the membranes of the retinas of the eyes and the brain. DHA is naturally found in human breast milk, and preformed dietary sources for adults include fatty fish. The human body has no difficulty converting the plant-derived omega-3 fat, ALA, into DHA or other omega-3 fatty acids, in the liver, thus supplying our needs even during gestation and

With this solid science you can put your friends’ worries at ease—as a non-fish-eater you will be just fine. And you’ll also avoid all that toxic mercury and help restore our oceans.

1) Sanders TA. DHA status of vegetarians. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Aug-Sep;81(2-3):137-41.

2 Langdon JH. Has an aquatic diet been necessary for hominin brain evolution and functional development? Br J Nutr. 2006 Jul;96(1):7-17.

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