Suboptimal Plasma Long Chain n-3 Concentrations are Common among Adults in the United States, NHANES 2003-2004

Nutrients. 2015 Dec 9;7(12):10282-9. doi: 10.3390/nu7125534.


Population data on long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCn-3 PUFA) status from biomarkers of dietary intake is lacking. The objectives were to describe plasma LCn-3 PUFA concentrations and compare them to concentrations associated with cardiovascular health and dietary recommendations for two servings of seafood/week. Fasting plasma fatty acids were measured among 1386 subjects ≥20 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2004. LCn-3 concentrations represent the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid relative to total fatty acids (expressed as a percentage). Mean LCn-3 PUFA concentration was 2.07% (95% CI 1.95-2.19). Overall, 80.6% of participants had LCn-3 below concentrations recommended for cardiovascular health. Hispanic participants were the most likely to have LCn-3 PUFA below recommended levels. Nearly all participants (95.7%) had LCn-3 below concentrations associated with cardiovascular protection. Older participants (≥60 years) had higher LCn-3 PUFA concentrations than those aged 20-39 years but not aged 40-59 years. LCn-3 PUFA concentrations were lower for Hispanic participants relative to non-Hispanic black participants. Suboptimal LCn-3 concentrations are common among U.S. adults. These findings highlight the need to increase LCn-3 intake among Americans.

Keywords: NHANES; adequacy; dietary intake; omega-3; polyunsaturated fatty acids.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Black or African American
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Seafood / analysis
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3