High arachidonic acid (AA; 20:4 n − 6) status may have adverse effects on inflammation and risk of cardiovascular diseases. Concerns about high intake of n − 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are based on the premise that endogenous conversion from linoleic acid (LA; 18:2 n − 6) is an important source of AA, but few population-based studies have investigated dietary determinants of AA status. In this study, we examined habitual food consumption in relation to plasma concentrations of AA and other PUFAs in population-based studies. We used cross-sectional data from 269 healthy, ethnic Chinese participants (25–80 years old) with contrasting intakes of fish and red meat from the Singapore Prospective Study Program and 769 healthy participants (44–74 years old) from the Singapore Chinese Health Study as a validation set. Multivariable linear regression was used to examine PUFA intake (% energy) and food sources of PUFA (fish, red meat, poultry, soy and cooking oils) in relation to plasma PUFAs (AA, LA, dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA; 20:3 n − 6), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA; 18:3 n − 3), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5 n − 3), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6 n − 3)) concentrations. Higher intake of red meat was associated with higher plasma AA concentrations. High intake of PUFA or PUFA-rich oils was associated with higher plasma ALA but not with plasma AA. Higher intakes of soy were associated with higher ALA and fish with higher DHA and EPA concentrations. These associations were statistically significant (p < 0.05) in both studies. Red meat consumption, but not PUFA or PUFA-rich cooking oil, was associated with circulating AA suggesting that intake of pre-formed AA rather than LA is an important determinant of AA status. A diet high in fish, soy products and polyunsaturated cooking oil, and low in red meat may be associated with an optimal plasma profile of PUFA in this Chinese population.
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