Omega-3 Index of Canadian adults

Health Rep. 2015 Nov;26(11):3-11.


Background: Cardioprotective properties have been associated with two fatty acids-eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The Omega-3 Index indicates the percentage of EPA+DHA in red blood cell fatty acids. Omega-3 Index levels of the Canadian population have not been directly measured.

Data and methods: Data for respondents aged 20 to 79 from cycle 3 (2012/2013) of the Canadian Health Measures Survey were used to calculate means and the prevalence of Omega-3 Index coronary heart disease (CHD) risk cut-offs-high (4% or less), moderate (more than 4% to less than 8%), and low (8% or more)-by sociodemographic and lifestyle characteristics, including fish consumption and use of omega-3 supplements. Associations between the Omega-3 Index and CHD-related factors including biomarkers, risk factors, and previous CHD events, were examined in multivariate regression models.

Results: The mean Omega-3 Index level of Canadians aged 20 to 79 was 4.5%. Levels were higher for women, older adults, Asians and other non-white Canadians, omega-3 supplement users, and fish consumers; levels were lower for smokers and people who were obese. Fewer than 3% of adults had levels associated with low CHD risk; 43% had levels associated with high risk. No CHD-related factor was associated with the Omega-3 Index when control variables were taken into account.

Interpretation: Omega-3 Index levels among Canadian adults were strongly related to age, race, supplement use, fish consumption, smoking status and obesity. Fewer than 3% of adults had Omega-3 Index levels associated with low risk for CHD.

Keywords: Coronary heart disease; DHA; EPA; RBC fatty acid composition; fish consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Canada
  • Coronary Disease / prevention & control
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood*
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid