Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acid Serum Concentrations by Life Stages in the United States: An Analysis by NHANES 2011-2012


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BMJ Open. 2021, May 10; 11 (5): e043301. doi: 10.1136 / bmjopen-2020-043301.


OBJECTIVE: To determine the reference ranges of circulating long-chain (LC) omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a nationally representative population of Americans. To create a correlation, the serum concentrations of LC-Omega-3 were compared with the concentrations obtained with the consumption of the recommended amount of EPA and DHA according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and the Omega-3 Index (EPA + DHA ) are connected.

DESIGN: Population-based cross-sectional study.

SETTING: The 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Cycle.

PARTICIPANTS: Participants with fatty acids measured in serum: 945 children aged 3 to 19 years and 1316 adults aged 20 years and older.

Main measure: Serum EPA, DPA, DHA and sum of LC omega-3 fatty acids, expressed as a percentage of total fatty acids.

Results: In children, the mean (SE) serum concentrations of EPA, DHA and omega-3 fatty acids were 0.28% (0.01), 1.07% (0.02) and 1.75% (0.03) . In adults, the mean (SE) of EPA, DHA and omega-3 fatty acids were 0.61% (0.02), 1.38% (0.05) and 2.43% (0.08), all were significantly higher than the corresponding serum fatty acid concentrations in children (p <0.001). Despite recommendations for a higher intake, pregnant and / or breastfeeding women had mean (SE) EPA, DHA and LC omega-3 concentrations of 0.34% (0.07), 1.52% (0.08) and 2.18% (0.15), who were comparable to women of childbearing age; p = 0.17, p = 0.10 and p = 0.73. Over 95% of children and 68% of adults had LC omega-3 concentrations that were below those of the DGA recommendation. Approximately 89% of adults had an omega-3 index in the high cardiovascular risk category.

CONCLUSIONS: Up-to-date reference ranges for the prevalence of LC omega-3 fatty acids are critical in setting public health recommendations. Our results show that regular consumption of LC omega-3s must remain a priority in Americans, especially given the importance of LC-omega-3s for cardiovascular health, brain health, and development during the entire life.

PMID: 33972333 | DOI: 10.1136 / bmjopen-2020-043301


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