Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Status in Vegetarians

Thomas A.B. Sanders*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Linoleic acid (18:2n-6) and α-linolenic acid (18:3n-3, ALA) from plants give rise to long-chain omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), respectively. In human tissues, linoleic acid is converted mainly to arachidonic acid and ALA less efficiently to docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3; DHA). Compared to omnivores, vegetarians and vegans have higher intakes of linoleic and similar/greater intakes of ALA, but they usually lack DHA and have higher proportions in blood, milk, and tissue lipids of linoleic acid and long-chain omega-6 PUFA, and fewer long-chain omega-3 PUFA. The regular consumption of eggs or single-cell oils increases DHA levels in blood lipids and breast milk. However, there is a lack of evidence based on meaningful clinical outcomes to support supplementing pregnant and lactating vegetarian women with DHA. Despite the lack of dietary long-chain omega-3 PUFA, vegetarians and vegans are not at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVegetarian and Plant-Based Diets in Health and Disease Prevention
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780128039694
ISBN (Print)9780128039687
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2017


  • Alpha linolenic acid
  • Blood lipids
  • Breastmilk
  • Cardiovascular risk
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • Lactation
  • Linoleic acid
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Pregnancy
  • Vegans
  • Vegetarians


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