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Dietary intakes and food sources of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids


Both n−6 and n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are recognized as essential nutrients in the human diet, yet reliable data on population intakes are limited. The aim of the present study was to ascertain the dietary intakes and food sources of individual n−6 and n−3 PUFA in the Australian population. An existing database with fatty acid composition data on 1690 foods was updated with newly validated data on 150 foods to estimate the fatty acid content of foods recorded as eaten by 10,851 adults in the 1995 Australian National Nutrition Survey. Average daily intakes of linoleic (LA), arachidonic (AA), α-linolenic (LNA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosapentaenoic (DPA), and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids were 10.8, 0.052, 1.17, 0.056, 0.026, and 0.106 g, respectively, with longchain (LC) n−3 PUFA (addition of FPA, DPA, and DHA) totaling 0.189 g; median intakes were considerably lower (9.0 g LA, 0.024 g AA, 0.95 g LNA, 0.008 g EPA, 0.006 g DPA, 0.015 g DHA, and 0.029 g LC n−3 PUFA). Fats and oils, meat and poultry, cereal-based products and cereals, vegetables, and nuts and seeds were important sources of n−6 PUFA, while cereal-based products, fats and oils, meat and poultry, cereals, milk products, and vegetable products were sources of LNA. As expected, seafood was the main source of LC n−3 PUFA, contributing 71%, while meat and eggs contributed 20 and 6%, respectively. The results indicate that the majority of Australians are failing to meet intake recommendations for LC n−3 PUFA (>0.2 g per day) and emphasize the need for strategies, to increase the availability and consumption of n−3-containing foods.

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linolenic acid

(α-1 NA, 18∶3n−3):

arachidonic acid

(AA 20∶4n−6):

docosahexaenoic acid

(DHA, 22∶6n−3):

docosapentaenoic acid

(DPA, 22∶5n−3):

eicosapentaenoic acid

(EPA, 20∶5n−3):

European Academy of Nutritional Sciences


Food Standards Australia New Zealand


International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids


linoleic acid

(LA, 18∶2n−6):

long-chain n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

(LC n−3 PUFA, 20∶5n−3, 22∶5n−3, and 22∶6n−3):

National Health and Medical Research Council


National Heart Foundation


National Nutrition Survey




monounsaturated fatty acids


n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

(n−3 PUFA):

n−6 polyunsaturated fatty acids

(n−6 PUFA):

saturated fatty acids (SAF)


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Correspondence to Barbara J. Meyer.

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Meyer, B.J., Mann, N.J., Lewis, J.L. et al. Dietary intakes and food sources of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Lipids 38, 391–398 (2003).

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