Authorised EU health claims for the essential fatty acids: n-6 linoleic (18:2n-6) and n-3 -linolenic (18:3n-3) acids

K. W.J. Wahle*, S. D. Heys, D. Rotondo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter considers the authorised health claims that can be made by food manufacturers as stipulated by EFSA and the EU in relation to the content of n-3 (alpha-linolenic, ALA, 18:3) and n-6 (linoleic, LA, 18:2) acids, the only two true essential fatty acids, in their products. Such authorised claims are a powerful marketing tool and greatly sought after by food producers. Since n-6 EFA (mainly LA) are generally in significant excess to their requirements compared with n-3 EFA (ALA) in western-type diets the health claims relate mainly to the proportion of n-3 ALA in the products. Furthermore, the beneficial health effects of ALA are intimately related to those of their longer-chain, more unsaturated derivatives eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3;EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6 n-3, DHA). The ability of humans to convert ALA to these derivatives is low and depends on age, gender and prior diet. High LA content of the diet suppresses the already low conversion rate of ALA to its important derivatives; reducing LA content has the opposite effect. These are considerations that food producers need to be aware off. This chapter highlights the health claims for EFA that have been given authorisation by EFSA/EU. It also suggests that in certain areas of deliberation EFSA has been rather too rigid and restrictive in its emphasis on only healthy populations and has overlooked possible health benefits in sub-groups of the population with evidence of disease, i.e. cardiovascular disease. We believe that it is difficult to determine health benefits of any nutrient when administered to a healthy population compared to a less healthy group. Possible future areas where EFSA/EU authorisation is likely are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFoods, Nutrients and Food Ingredients with Authorised EU Health Claims
EditorsM.J. Sadler
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781782424031
ISBN (Print)9781782423829
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Alpha-linolenic, linoleic
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • EFA metabolism
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • Essential fatty acids
  • EU authorised claims
  • Health benefits


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