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Most dietary EPA and DHA are consumed in the form of fish or seafood. Deep sea cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, halibut and herring, provide the most concentrated sources. Current Australian estimates of intake indicate inadequate consumption according to WHO standards (Meyer et al 2003).

Clinical note — Are ALA-rich oils a worthy substitute for fish oils?

Both EPA and DHA are derived from ALA, so food sources containing ALA are seen as indirect dietary sources. ALA is commonly found in non-hydrogenated canola oil, linseed oil, soyabean oil, flaxseed, pumpkin and walnuts. Studies investigating the effects of ALA supplementation have not consistently produced the same positive results as for fish oils, most likely due to inefficient conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA. This is reportedly poor in healthy individuals, with only 5-10% of ALA converted to EPA and 2-5% of ALA converted to DHA (Davis & Kris-Etherton 2003). Consequently, the few foods that contain both EPA and DHA in their preformed state offer a significant advantage over other sources. The most concentrated dietary source of both EPA and DHA is fish oil.

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