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Polyunsaturated fatty acids intake in young individuals attending an English university.
* 1 , 2 , 3 , 1 , 2
1  Leicester School of Allied Health Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester, LE1 9BH, UK.
2  Scientific Computation & Technological Innovation Center (SCoTIC), Universidad de La Rioja, Logroño, Spain.
3  Departamento de Ciencias Biomédicas, Universidad de Alcalá, Crta. Madrid-Barcelona Km, 33.6, 28871 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain
Academic Editor: Maria-Luz Fernandez


Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are poorly synthesised in the human body, and are substantially lower in Western diets compared with their shorter chain omega-3 essential fatty acid precursors α-linolenic acid (18:3n-3; ALA). However, ALA does not provide the health benefits observed with the intake of EPA and DHA, which have been associated with healthy aging, and importance in foetal development and neural, retinal and immune system function. The aim of our work was to assess intake of PUFAs, EPA, DHA and ALA in a young cohort of students attending De Montfort University (DMU), a British university located in the East Midlands. Comprehensive nutrient intake was collected from 111 (20.45 ± 1.16 yrs-old; 78 female) DMU students between 2015-16 from three major ethnic backgrounds (41 Asia, 41 Africa, 27 Europe), using a validated variant of the Nutrition Norfolk Food Frequency Questionnaire with more than 130 food items, which also records portion size. Questionnaires were processed with Nutritics dietary software. BMI values were calculated with the formula BMI = kg/m2. Moreover, body total and visceral fat, water, muscle and bone mass were directly obtained by a Tanita scale. Only 9.2% of this population was underweight, meanwhile 25.7% and 8.3% were overweight and obese, respectively; three times the national average in this age group. The dietary intakes of total fat (100.55 vs. 81.72 all in g/day; p-value=0.032), total polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA; 14.61 vs. 12.91; NS), linoleic acid (18:2n-6; LA; 27.254 vs. 19.506; p-value=0.0019), ALA (5.857 vs. 3.725; p-value=0.00008), arachidonic acid (AA; 0.765 vs. 0.578; p-value=0.0303), EPA (0.620 vs. 0.523; NS) and DHA (1.069 vs. 0.847; NS) were significantly higher or higher in male participants, respectively. The high intakes of LA and ALA versus EPA and DHA observed would be consistent with that reported in Western countries. However, none of them presented statistical differences according to ethnic background or BMI, except for the intake of total fat (p-value=0.0069) and PUFA (p-value=0.0013), which were significantly higher in students from Asia and Europe. However, although without significance, the higher intakes of EPA and DHA were seen in Asian [values as mean and range (in g/day); 1.006 (0.011-5.724) and 0.605 (0.032-3.484)] and African [0.875 (0.075-5.064) and 0.545 (0.067-3.586)] students versus European [0.826 (0.089-2.810) and 0.480 (0.0498-1.755)], possibly due to differences in the diet between these individuals based on their different traditions. The dietary intakes of DHA plus EPA in the group monitored (0.551 + 0.912 g/day) exceed the recommended intake of 0.2 g/day recommended by the UK, including the RDI of 0.5 g/day that considers the intake of one to two portions of fish per week. The higher intakes of EPA and DHA in the monitored group than that reported in 19-24 years-old UK population (97 and 98 mg/day, in males and females, respectively) could be explained by the higher intake of fish observed (59.4) when compared with that reported in general UK adult population (31 g/day). However, the intake of total fish was higher in Asian and European students than those reported in African participants (65.895, 63.899 vs. 49.972 g/day), although these differences were not statistically different. Further analysis will evaluate the potential contribution of poultry, milk and eggs to the intake of EPA and DHA in the monitored group for each ethnical background. Finally, male and female participants (1.817 and 1.503) would cover the adequate intake of omega-3s (1.6 and 1.1; g/day) established by the US National Institutes of Health.

Keywords: Essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA intakes, university students, ethnicity, Leicester.