Systematic Review on N-3 and N-6 PUFA Intake in European Countries in Light of the Current Recommendations – Focus on Specific Population Groups

Earlier reviews have indicated that in many countries adults, children and adolescents consume on average less polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) than recommended by the FAO/WHO. An overview of such intake data for more vulnerable population groups is currently not available. Therefore, we reviewed systematically intake of total and individual n-3 and n-6 PUFAs in European infants, children, adolescents, elderly, and pregnant and lactating women. Results were evaluated against recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Fifty-three studies from 17 different European countries reported intake of total n-3 and n-6 PUFAs and/or individual n-3 or n-6 PUFAs in at least one of the specific population groups: 10 in pregnant women, 4 in lactating women, 3 in infants 6-12 mo, 6 in children 1-3 y, 11 in children 4-9 y, 8 in adolescents 10-18 y and 11 in elderly >65 y. Mean linoleic acid intake was within the  recommendation of 4 energy percentage (E%) in 52% of the countries, with inadequate intakes more likely in lactating women, adolescents and elderly. Mean α-linolenic acid intake was within the recommendation of 0.5E% in 77% of the countries. In 26% of the countries, mean eicosapentaenoic acid and/or docosahexaenoic acid intake was as recommended. These results indicate that intake of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs may be suboptimal in specific population groups in Europe.

More national surveys that include representative samples of vulnerable population groups and that report data on all relevant individual PUFAs are needed.

The open-access PDF is accessible here.

The present study was initiated by ILSI Europe’s Nutrient Intake Optimisation Task Force and Early Nutrition and Long Term Health Task Force.

For more detailed information, please contact Ms Lilou van Lieshout at