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Fatty acid composition of habitual omnivore and vegetarian diets


High-fat diets are implicated in the onset of cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and obesity. Large intakes of saturated and trans FA, together with low levels of PUFA, particularly long-chain (LC) omega-3 (n−3) PUFA, appear to have the greatest impact on the development of CVD. A high n−6∶n−3 PUFA ratio is also considered a marker of elevated risk of CVD, though little accurate data on dietary intake is available. A new Australian food composition database that reports FA in foods to two decimal places was used to assess intakes of FA in four habitual dietary groups. Analysis using the database found correlations between the dietary intakes of LC n−3 PUFA and the plasma phospholipid LC n−3 PUFA concentrations of omnivore and vegetarian subjects. High meat-eaters (HME), who consumed large amounts of food generally, had significantly higher LC n−3 PUFA intakes (0.29 g/d) than moderate meat-eaters (MME) (0.14 g/d), whose intakes in turn were significantly higher than those of ovolacto-vegetarians or vegans (both 0.01 g/d). The saturated FA intake of MME subjects (typical of adult male Australians) was not different from ovolacto-vegetarian intakes, whereas n−6∶n−3 intake ratios in vegetarians were significantly higher than in omnivores. Thus, accurate dietary and plasma FA analyses suggest that regular moderate consumption of meat and fish maintains a plasma FA profile possibly more conducive to good health.

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arachidonic acid


body mass index


blood pressure


cardiovascular disease


docosapentanoic acid


high meat-eater


linoleic acid


alpha-linolenic acid




moderate meat-eater


monounsaturated FA




saturated FA


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Correspondence to Neil Mann.

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Mann, N., Pirotta, Y., O'Connell, S. et al. Fatty acid composition of habitual omnivore and vegetarian diets. Lipids 41, 637–646 (2006).

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  • Plasma Phospholipid
  • PUFA Intake
  • Habitual Diet
  • Thrombotic Risk Factor
  • Vegan Group