Total Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Food Sources in the United States Compared to Recommended Intakes: NHANES 2003–2008

Chesney K. Richter, Kate J. Bowen, Dariush Mozaffarian, Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ann C. Skulas-Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The American Heart Association recommends consuming fish (particularly oily fish) at least two times per week, which would provide ≈ 0.5 g/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) + docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for cardiovascular disease risk reduction. Previous analyses indicate that this recommendation is not being met; however, few studies have assessed different ethnicities, subpopulations requiring additional n-3 fatty acid intake (i.e., children and pregnant and/or lactating women), or deciles of intake. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2008 was used to assess n-3 fatty acid intake from foods and supplements in the US population, according to age, sex, and ethnicity. A unique “EPA equivalents” factor, which accounts for potential conversion of shorter-chain n-3 fatty acids, was used to calculate total long-chain n-3 fatty acid intake. Data are reported for 24,621 individuals. More than 90% consumed less than the recommended 0.5 g/day from food sources (median = 0.11 g/day; mean = 0.17 g/day). Among the top 15% of n-3 fatty acid consumers, fish was the largest dietary contributor (71.2%). Intake was highest in men aged 20 years or more, and lowest in children and women who are or may become pregnant and/or are lactating. Among ethnicities, intake was lowest in Mexican-Americans. Only 6.2% of the total population reported n-3 fatty acid supplement use, and this did not alter median daily intake. Additional strategies are needed to increase awareness of health benefits (particularly among Mexican-Americans and women of childbearing age) and promote consumption of oily fish or alternative dietary sources to meet current recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)917-927
Number of pages11
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Total Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Food Sources in the United States Compared to Recommended Intakes: NHANES 2003–2008'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this