Clinical Trial of DHA Supplementation in Vegans
A recently released study measured the omega-3 status of vegans and then placed those with low omega-3 status on an EPA/DHA supplement for two months (1).
The cross-sectional part of the study found that 166 vegans had an average EPA level of .63% (of total fatty acids in red blood cells) and an average DHA level of 2.4%. In comparison to other studies that have measured the percentage of EPA/DHA in meat-eaters in similar ways, those numbers are on the low side, especially for EPA.
The researchers compared a group of the male vegans to a group of male soldiers deployed to Iraq who had very low fish intakes and the vegans had significantly higher levels of EPA and slightly lower levels of DHA.
The researchers then took a group of vegans with low omega-3 levels and gave them a supplement of 172 mg DHA and 82 mg EPA for 2 months. EPA went from about .6% to .8% and DHA increased from about 2.3% to 3.25%.
In other words, this supplementation schedule was adequate for raising EPA/DHA levels to those typical of fish-eaters.
I have updated Omega-3 Fatty Acid Recommendations for Vegetarians with this information.
1. Sarter B, Kelsey KS, Schwartz TA, Harris WS. Blood docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in vegans: Associations with age and gender and effects of an algal-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar 14. pii: S0261-5614(14)00076-4. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2014.03.003. [Epub ahead of print] | link