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The health benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: a review of the evidence

Authors


Dr Carrie Ruxton,
Accredited Sports Dietitian and Registered Public Health Nutritionist, Nutrition Communications, 6 Front Lebanon, Cupar KY15 4EA, UK
Tel.: +44 7973 337757
E-mail: carrie@nutrition-communications.com

Abstract

The UK dietary guidelines for cardiovascular disease acknowledge the importance of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) – a component of fish oils – in reducing heart disease risk. At the time, it was recommended that the average n-3 PUFA intake should be increased from 0.1 to 0.2  g day−1. However, since the publication of these guidelines, a plethora of evidence relating to the beneficial effects of n-3 PUFAs, in areas other than heart disease, has emerged. The majority of intervention studies, which found associations between various conditions and the intake of fish oils or their derivatives, used n-3 intakes well above the 0.2 g day−1 recommended by Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA). Furthermore, in 2004, the Food Standards Agency changed its advice on oil-rich fish creating a discrepancy between the levels of n-3 PUFA implied by the new advice and the 1994 COMA guideline. This review will examine published evidence from observational and intervention studies relating to the health effects of n-3 PUFAs, and discuss whether the current UK recommendation for long-chain n-3 PUFA needs to be revisited.

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