Primary Deficiency

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Full-term babies fed a skim-milk formula low in ALA are at risk of primary deficiency. In the past, patients fed long-term with fat-free TPN solutions were at risk, but fat emulsions are now in general use and prevent deficiency. Studies have demonstrated lower plasma levels of EPA and DHA in vegetarians and vegans, suggesting they may be at risk of deficiency; however, the findings of a recent cross-sectional study comparing the dietary intakes and plasma levels of 196 meat-eating, 231 vegetarian, and 232 vegan men in the United Kingdom did not suggest there is cause for alarm (Rosell et al 2005). Vegans and vegetarians had significantly lower levels of these fatty acids; however, they remained steady and there is evidence of some conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA.

There is much discussion regarding the inadequate intake of EPA and DHA generally in the Western diet. Recent Australian data, based on dietary intake records from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey, have estimated the average daily intake at 0.008 g EPA and 0.01 5 g DHA. If correct, this indicates that the majority of Australians are failing to meet recommended amounts (Meyer et al 2003).

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