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Omega-3 and Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intakes, Determinants and Dietary Sources in the Spanish Population: Findings from the ANIBES Study

Articles   |   21 January 2023 Date   |  

Marina Redruello-Requejo, María de Lourdes Samaniego-Vaesken, Ana M. Puga, Ana Montero-Bravo, Mar Ruperto, Paula Rodríguez-Alonso, Teresa Partearroyo and Gregorio Varela-Moreiras.

The multiple roles of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in growth and general health are well documented. However, available intake data for the Spanish population are limited and lack gender and age considerations. Therefore, our goal was to assess dietary intake adequacy of omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA, their determinants and their major food sources among the Spanish population. Due to their influence on various beneficial functions attributed to omega-3 PUFA, combined intake adequacy with folic acid (FA), vitamin B₁₂ and choline was also assessed. Intake data were obtained from the ANIBES cross-sectional study on a representative sample of the Spanish population (9-75 years; n = 2009), where dietary intake was analysed with a three-day dietary record. Median intake of total omega-3 PUFA stood at 0.81 g/day (0.56-1.19 g/day), with α-linolenic acid (ALA) at 0.61 g/day (0.45-0.85 g/day), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) at 0.03 g/day (0.01-0.12 g/day) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) at 0.06 g/day (0.0-0.20 g/day). Accordingly, 65% of the Spanish population showed insufficient intakes for total omega-3 PUFA; 87% for ALA, and 83% for combined EPA and DHA. Inadequate intakes were significantly higher in children, adolescents, and younger women of childbearing age (18-30 years). In contrast, inadequacy due to excessive intakes was almost negligible. Regarding omega-6 PUFA, total intake was 10.1 g/day (7.0-14.0 g/day), 10.0 g/day (6.9-13.9 g/day) for linoleic acid (LA) and 0.08 g/day (0.05-0.13 g/day) for arachidonic acid (AA). Non-compliance due to either insufficient or excessive intakes of LA stood at around 5% of the sample, with the elderly showing significantly higher degrees of inadequacy due to insufficient intakes (10%; p ≤ 0.05). Median omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was 12:1, and significantly higher in men compared to women (p ≤ 0.05); in children, adolescents and adults compared to the elderly (p ≤ 0.05); and in younger women of childbearing age compared to the older group (31-45 years) (p ≤ 0.001). Oils and fats and meat and meat products were the main dietary sources for the essential fatty acids LA and ALA, respectively. Meat and meat products were as well the main providers of AA, while fish and shellfish were almost exclusively the only sources of EPA and DHA. However, main food sources identified showed important differences across age groups. Finally, the total combined degree of inadequacy observed for omega-3 PUFA, FA, vitamin B₁₂ and choline reached 21.3% of the ANIBES population. The observed degree of inadequacy of omega-3 PUFA intakes among the Spanish population makes it urgent to increase its consumption and to consider the need for supplementation. This should also be the main strategy for the optimization of the omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as the adequacy observed for omega-6 intakes is relatively acceptable. Additional improvement of the dietary intake of FA, vitamin B12 and choline could contribute to the beneficial effects of omega-3 PUFA.

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