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DHA and the vegetarian diet


1. From the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, USA
2. Department of Psychology and Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA


Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that can be derived endogenously from a-linolenic acid but is more readily obtained through a diet that includes animal fats. While the highest concentration of preformed DHA is found in ocean fish, ordinary chicken eggs and dietary supplements remain major sources in the US diet where intake of DHA-rich ocean fish is low and the popularity of predominantly vegetable-based diets is growing. Microalgae oil is the only commercially available vegetarian source of DHA and it is possible to improve DHA intake on all types of vegetarian eating patterns with supplementation. We provide evidence that DHA is an important nutrient to consume during pregnancy and infancy and provide information for vegetarians who wish to improve their DHA status with supplementation.

"List of abbreviations:
DHA, docosahexaenoic acid;
ALA, a-linolenic acid;
ARA, arachidonic acid;
ePTB, early preterm birth;
EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid;
DIAMOND, DHA Intake and Measurement of Neural Development;
DOMInO, DHA to Optimize Maternal Infant Outcome;
KUDOS, Kansas University DHA Outcomes Study;
PL, phospholipid;
PPVT, Peabody Picture Vocabular Test;
RBC, red blood cell;
WPPSI, Weschler Preschool Primary Scale of Intelligence"


Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid derived endogenously from α-linolenic acid (ALA) but the rate of conversion from ALA to DHA by way of desaturation and elongation reactions is quite limited. DHA is more readily available from preformed animal fats and dietary supplements. Compared to countries that consume ocean fish as part of their usual dietary pattern, US dietary intake of DHA is low. US adults consume approximately 60 mg of DHA/day from food (1) in comparison to cou ...

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