The recent publication of new Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) by the Food and Nutrition Board, part of the US Institute of Medicine, was broadly welcomed by the food industry as providing clear and useful information about fat, carbohydrate and protein intake, among others.
But not everyone was happy with the new guidelines. The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the organisation which represents the interests of the dietary supplement industry in the US, has criticised the report for "missing the mark on its recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids".
The CRN's main complaint is that the fatty acid recommendations include some specific values for omega-3 fatty acids that are much lower than the levels found in clinical trials to be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease. Dr Annette Dickinson, vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the CRN, said: "The new IOM recommendations do not provide an adequate target for increasing the intake of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in order to help protect against heart disease."
Dr Dickinson pointed out that the IOM's recommendations were even lower than the amount that would be obtained if people followed the American Heart Association's (AHA) recommendation to consume two fish meals per week for heart health.
The IOM set an acceptable intake level of 1.6 grams per day of alpha-linolenic acid (a good source of omega-3) for men and 1.1 grams for women, and suggests that "EPA and DHA can contribute up to 10 percent" of this total amount of omega-3 fatty acids. However, the CRN said that this meant that the target intake for EPA and DHA was only 160 and 110 mg per day respectively, a figure which it said was far too low to be beneficial.
"A new report from the CRN recognises that there is growing evidence that the long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA reduce the risk of coronary heart disease," Dr Dickinson said. "Eight separate mechanisms are outlined by which marine sources of omega-3 fatty acids benefit heart health. The report cites three controlled clinical trials that showed a heart benefit using 1.5 grams per day of fish oil, 1 gram of EPA, or 850 mg per day of combined EPA and DHA. Intakes in this range would represent a more reasonable target for the American population than the very low levels suggested by the IOM."