Types and sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids

The therapeutic significance of omega-3 PUFAs has been clearly indicated in clinical trials and epidemiological studies (Bucher et al., 2002; Hu et al., 2002). Fatty fish or fish oils are the richest sources of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs, but as already discussed, the dietary intake of fish has decreased. However, fish stocks are also declining and there have been reports indicating the accumulation of heavy metals and pollutants in some fish (Hites et al., 2004). There is thus an urgent need for alternative sources of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs and there is considerable interest in developing new techniques for this purpose. The primary producers of various omega-3 PUFAs in nature are bacteria, algae, fungi, insects and some invertebrates. Other PUFAs are extracted from oily plant seeds (Table 13.2).

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