Impact of Biological Feedback and Incentives on Blood Fatty Acid Concentrations, Including Omega-3 Index, in an Employer-Based Wellness Program

Nutrients. 2017 Aug 5;9(8):842. doi: 10.3390/nu9080842.


Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, C20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6n-3) are important fatty acids for the retina and brain. More than 95% of Americans have suboptimal EPA + DHA blood concentrations. This cross-sectional employer-based study assessed whole blood fatty acid levels of volunteers participating in an onsite wellness biometric screening program and was designed to determine if an incentive, a $5 coupon for a 90-day supply of fish oil supplement typically costing $18-30, stimulated incremental dietary behavior change relative to nutritional status assessment alone to increase EPA + DHA concentrations. Volunteers completed a dietary survey and finger stick blood samples were collected to be analyzed for fatty acid composition. In addition, 636 individuals participated in the initial onsite biometric screening. Three months later, and without prior knowledge, all employees were invited to a second screening. At the second screening, 198 employees volunteered for the first time and 149 employees had a second test (17.9%). At baseline, the average age (n = 834) was 45 year and omega-3 index was 5.0% with 41% female. EPA + DHA concentration, i.e., omega-3 index, was significantly lower in men (4.8%) than women (5.2%), as were DHA and linoleic acid (LA) concentrations (p < 0.05). Baseline omega-3 index was positively and linearly associated with omega-3 intake. Only 4% of volunteers had an omega-3 index >8% on initial screening. Among the 149 individuals with two measurements, omega-3 intake from supplements, but not food, increased significantly from 258 to 445 mg/d (p < 0.01) at the second test as did the omega-3 index (+0.21, p < 0.02). In this employed population, only 1% redeemed a coupon for an omega-3 supplement.

Keywords: EPA:AA; arachidonic acid (AA); docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); highly unsaturated fatty acids (HUFA); omega-3 fatty acids; omega-3 index; omega-6 fatty acids.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / blood*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Occupational Health Services*


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3