U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008

Abstract (provisional)


The American Heart Association's Strategic Impact Goal Through 2020 and Beyond recommends >= two 3.5-oz fish servings per week (preferably oily fish) partly to increase intake of omega3-fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). We examined the intake of total fish, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid, EPA, and DHA in U.S. adults (19+ years) using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2008.


Usual intakes from foods alone and from foods plus dietary supplements were determined using the methods from the National Cancer Institute.


Mean usual intake of total fish and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids was 0.61 +/- 0.03 and 0.15 +/- 0.03 oz/day, 0.43 and 0.07 respectively. Total fish and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids median intake was 0.43 and 0.07 oz/day, respectively. Intake from foods alone for ALA, EPA and DHA was 1.5 +/- 0.01 g/d, 23 +/- 7 mg/d and 63 +/- 2 mg/d, respectively. ALA, EPA and DHA from food only median intakes were 1.4 g/d, 18 mg/d and 50 mg/d, respectively. Intake of ALA, EPA and DHA from foods and dietary supplements was 1.6 +/- 0.04 g/d, 41 +/- 4 mg/d and 72 +/- 4 mg/d, respectively. While intakes of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids were higher in older adults (0.13 +/- 0.01 oz/d for those 19-50 yrs and 0.19 +/- 0.02 oz/d for those 51+ year; p < 0.01) and in males as compared to females (0.18 +/- 0.02 vs 0.13 +/- 0.01 oz/d, respectively; p < 0.05), few consumed recommended levels. Males also had higher (p < 0.05) intake of EPA and DHA from foods and dietary supplements relative to females (44 +/- 6 vs 39 +/- 4 and 90 +/- 7 vs 59 +/- 4 mg/d, respectively) and older adults had higher intakes of EPA, but not DHA compared to younger adults (EPA: 34 +/- 3 vs 58 +/- 9, p < 0.05; DHA: 68 +/- 4 vs 81 +/- 6, p < 0.05).


As omega-3 fatty acids are deemed important from authoritative bodies, supplementation in addition to food sources may need to be considered to help U.S. adults meet recommendations.

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Alex's Notes: Wow, this is very discouraging. Average fish intake was less than 1 oz daily, resulting in a pathetic daily intake of 68 mg EPA/DHA average from foods. Even considering supplementation, average daily EPA/DHA intake was only 113 mg. Given the typical linoleic acid heavy diet of the average person, this is even more severe. 

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