Request for Pre-Proposals

Long-chain n-3 fatty acids among North American teens/young adults eating plant-based diets.
April 2024

The Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) scientific organization that pools funding from industry collaborators and advances science through the in-kind and financial contributions from public and private sector participants.

The IAFNS Lipid Committee addresses emerging issues and trends associated with dietary fats and oils to inform evidence-based nutrition guidance and to improve human health.

IAFNS adheres to rigorous procedures to maintain scientific integrity in all work we support. These requirements are described further in the attached Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) Guidelines and 9 Guiding Principles for Scientific Integrity addendums.

Pre-proposals meeting the following criteria will be invited to submit a full proposal (which would include detailed research plans, a budget, and timeline).

  1. High impact relative to the stated project objectives,
  2. Demonstrated expertise and publishing record for the PI and team, and
  3. Reasonable range of time and budget.

“Plant-based” diets are among popular contemporary eating patterns but are diverse ranging from restricted vegan or vegetarian diets to patterns emphasizing foods to eat such as the Mediterranean pattern and to diets in which traditional foods in a Western diet are substituted for similar foods made with plant alternatives such as milk, meat, and egg alternatives. Some plant-based diets may restrict food rich sources of DHA/EPA while increasing the amount of plant based n-6 fats that may reduce conversion of ALA to the long-chain omega 3’ rich in brain tissue.

One very recent study showed that self-selected Mediterranean diet patterns (one form of a plant-centric diet) was associated with better mood among healthy people in the UK (Ma, 2023). And among children, those scoring higher on a “plant-based diet” had more positive mood scores (Ma, 2023). This study also showed that specific components were correlated to positive mood, notably vegetables, fruit and monounsaturated to saturated fat ratio (Ma, 2023). Given mental health concerns among teens/young adults and their propensity to consume “plant-based diets,” this is a key group to study in terms of fatty acids associated with brain structure and function (i.e., DHA/EPA).

Additionally, scientific questions remain on the impact of higher linoleic acid on in-vivo conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA. Given that linoleic fatty acids relative to DHA/EPA could be higher in “plant-based diets” that restrict food sources of long-chain omega 3’s, coupled with potential differences in the between person in conversion ALA, these variables could be addressed in one or more studies that would inform how to ensure “plant-based diets” support brain structure and function by maintaining blood long-chain omega-3 fat levels.

Reference Citation
Ma, Xuemei et al. “Plant-based dietary patterns and their association with mood in healthy individuals.” Food & Function. 2023 Issue 5.

Research Objective:
Characterize blood fatty acids emphasizing DHA/EPA levels of teens or young adults eating plant-based diet patterns compared to more traditional western diet patterns.

Add-on funds for a randomized human intervention trial will be provided for a study well suited to measure and compare blood fatty acids, emphasizing DHA/EPA levels, among teens or young adults in North America (or comparable population) consuming a “plant-based” diet pattern compared to a standard western style diet consumed. The trial could be a randomized controlled clinical trial or else a free-living intervention to measure change as individuals adopt a “plant-based” diet pattern either a prescribed defined diet or self-selected by subjects. Preference will be given to studies that either are measuring mood or have the potential to add measures as secondary outcomes.

The alternative, an observational approach, would be to characterize self-selected “plant-based” diet patterns consumed by teens or young adults in North America in order to determine patterns that are relevant for assessment (e.g., vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean type which would include some animal products, western style using plant-alternatives as substitutes, etc). And then importantly, to use quantitative self-reported diets of teens/young adults adhering to various “plant-based” dietary patterns to determine how they are associated with blood fatty acid levels as a means to identify if certain diet patterns are associated with blood DHA/EPA levels. Blood fatty acids (including LA, ALA, DHA, EPA) must be measured in order to determine their association with diet patterns, because dietary fatty acid intakes cannot be used to quantify specific fatty acids (e.g., an individual would not know, so could not report whether the oil in a food they ate was a standard linoleic acid rich vegetable oil or a high oleic acid trait enhanced oil).

Additional considerations:
In Scope: Teens and young adults in North America (possibly populations outside of North America that are similar in terms of diet). Additional ages can be included as long as the teens and young adults are sufficient for sub-population analysis as a primary outcome.
Out of Scope: Individuals with major health conditions for which treatment is underway or needed (e.g., obesity, clinical depression).

Pre-Proposal Content:

  1. Background: Briefly describe background relevant to the project and proposed approach to address the research need.
  2. Research Approach:
    1. Overall methodology
    2. Questions to be answered
    3. Primary and secondary outcomes clearly identified
    4. Research approach in broad terms, including the source of population, data, methods to be used, brief overview of dietary intake data if observational or intervention if otherwise, timeliness of data, and measures that will be used to address the questions.
  3. Research Team: Principal investigator(s), co-investigators, key team members, and collaborators that may be affiliated but not part of the grant, indicating all potential conflicts of interest.
  4. Investigator Credentials: Describe the experiences that make you and your team a candidate for carrying out this project. In addition, the CV of the principal investigator(s) is required. Demonstrated success publishing in this topic area in a quality peer-reviewed journal is a minimum criteria.
  5. Estimated budget range and timelines: Please provide the range of budget, noting that ILSI North America limits overhead to 10% of total project costs and journal fees to cover free access (typically US$3,000.00) should be included in the budget. Timelines should include both a presentation of results to committee in-person or by webinar and submit date for a final manuscript in a top tier peer-reviewed journal for publication.
  6. References cited:

Pre-proposals are to be submitted to the attention of Barbara Lyle ( by midnight eastern time May 15, 2024. Pre-proposals should be submitted using the template shown below in the addendum, which is also provided in a separate document for your use. A review committee comprised of industry, government, and academia will determine fit with criteria. Critiques of individual pre-proposals cannot be provided.