Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicated that 95.7% of a nationally representative sample of Americans has an omega-3 index – a quantification of the fatty acid status of a person – below 4%, reported to be a high risk indicator for coronary heart disease.
“Suboptimal [long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCn-3 PUFA)] concentrations are common among U.S. adults despite repeated emphasis on increasing seafood consumption,” wrote the researchers in Nutrients. “Hispanic individuals and individuals aged 20 to 59 may be particularly important populations to focus on given the high prevalence of suboptimal LCn-3 PUFA. Notably, no subpopulation had a majority of individuals with LCn-3 concentrations above suboptimal, thus highlighting the need for improving LCn-3 PUFA levels in the food supply.”
‘Disconcerting but not surprising’
Commenting independently on the study Harry Rice, PhD, VP of regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), told us that the results were disconcerting but not surprising.
“They reinforce that low EPA/DHA intake has reached epidemic proportions in the US," said Dr Rice. "There's only one way to get out of the dire straits into which we've gotten ourselves. Increase EPA/DHA intake! Clearly, results from this study support the need for a DRI for EPA+DHA.”
Scientists from DSM Nutritional Products, the University of British Columbia, and Cornell University analyzed data from 1,386 people over the age of 20 from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The LCn-3 concentrations represent the combination of EPA, DHA, and DPA omega-3s relative to total fatty acids. The data showed that the mean LCn-3 PUFA concentration was 2.07%.
Over 80% of the people surveyed had LCn-3 below concentrations recommended for cardiovascular health, said the researchers, and over 90% had LCn-3 PUFA concentrations below the level associated with a reduced risk of cardiac death.
Subgroup analysis revealed that Hispanics were the most likely to have omega-3s below the recommended levels.
“Estimates project that by 2030, 40.5% of the U.S. population will have some form of [cardiovascular disease (CVD)] and the real indirect costs for all CVD are estimated to increase by 61% from 2010 to 2030,” they wrote.
“A systematic review estimated that increasing omega-3 intake and status could result in a 6.9% reduction in the incidence of CVD-related events and avoid hospital utilization by $2.06 billion per year among US adults over 55 years, suggesting that improving LCn-3 PUFA intake, and by extension status, could have significant cost implications for the US healthcare system.”
2015, Volume 7, Number 12, Pages 10282-10289, doi: 10.3390/nu7125534
“Suboptimal plasma long chain n-3 concentrations are common among adults in the United States, NHANES 2003-2004”
Authors: R.A. Murphy, E.A. Yu, E.D. Ciappio, S. Mehta, M.I. McBurney