Intake Recommendations Across the Lifecycle for EPA + DHA

5 Jun 2012

To date, more peer-reviewed published clinical studies have investigated the benefits of the long-chain omega-3s EPA & DHA than any other nutraceutical ingredient. With more than 22,000 peer-reviewed publications, covering research across the life cycle (pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adulthood, and aging) and representing numerous conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, diabetes, neurodevelopment, inflammation, maternal […]

Intake Recommendations Across the Lifecycle for EPA + DHA

To date, more peer-reviewed published clinical studies have investigated the benefits of the long-chain omega-3s EPA & DHA than any other nutraceutical ingredient. With more than 22,000 peer-reviewed publications, covering research across the life cycle (pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adulthood, and aging) and representing numerous conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, diabetes, neurodevelopment, inflammation, maternal health, respiratory diseases, surgery/trauma, etc…), there is no sign of a slow-down. As much as we know about the benefits of EPA and DHA for human health, there’s even more that is not known. We are just beginning to understand their potential value.

As the evidence in support of EPA & DHA has grown, so too have the global recommendations from numerous authoritative bodies and expert scientific organizations. Such recommendations have been made for different population groups across the lifecycle, as shown here:

 

  • Pregnancy and lactation: range = 100-1900 mg/day
  • Infants: range = 40 mg DHA/day – 900 mg O3/day
  • Children: range = 40-1500 mg/day
  • Adolescents: range = 70-2500 mg/day
  • Adults: range = 90-2400 mg/day

 

The only life stage not well-represented for intake recommendations is the senior population, but it’s only a matter of time before research results translate into intake recommendations. In fact, it’s not unrealistic to imagine that someday there may be a recommendation associated with risk reduction for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a disease typically diagnosed in seniors.

In AD, brain cells that process, store and retrieve information degenerate and die due to accumulation of plaque made up of protein fragments called beta-amyloid. Some scientific studies suggest that the toxic effects of beta-amyloid occur even before the formation of plaques. If true, blocking the formation of beta-amyloid could prevent AD. Recently, scientists found that higher dietary EPA+DHA intake was associated with lower plasma beta-amyloid protein levels, suggesting that the potential beneficial effects of O-3 intake on AD may be explained, in part, by a beta-amyloid-related mechanism. Of course, it’s necessary to determine to what extent, if any, plasma beta-amyloid proteins reflect amyloid levels in the brain. Clearly a logical next step would be to test EPA+DHA in high risk individuals to determine if formation of beta-amyloid is blocked. Should this pan out, an intake recommendation would likely follow.

Intake recommendations exist to raise awareness of a deficiency and to encourage consumption. Of the potential benefits associated with the O-3s, the evidence supporting a cardiovascular benefit is considered by many to be the most compelling. It’s interesting to look at this in light of what the economic impact of increased consumption might be. A group of Harvard University scientists found that low O-3intake accounts for 72,000-96,000 deaths per year in the United States. Furthermore, consulting firm Lewin Group estimated that daily intake of approximately 1800 mg of O-3s, among individuals over 65 years old, would result in a net savings over five years of $3.1 billion from reduced hospital expenditures (estimated number = 384,303) and physician charges resulting from a reduction in the occurrence of coronary heart disease. While this is just in the U.S., economic impact assessments have been conducted for other geographies. For example, in Australia, Deloitte has estimated a savings of $4.2 billion associated with increasing intakes of EPA and DHA for secondary coronary heart disease prevention. Clearly, the global economic impact of increasing O-3 intake is staggering.

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