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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Different Options for Meeting Omega-3 Recommendations with the Diet

By Julia Bird

Recommendations for omega-3 consumption vary greatly. Healthy adults are advised to consume anywhere from 90 to 500 mg of long chain omega-3 PUFAs, but the recommendation of 250 mg per day seems to be most common (see GOED’s table on international recommendations). When the guidelines don’t directly mention long chain omega-3’s, they state that we should eat fish (especially fatty fish) at least twice a week, or otherwise increase consumption of foods containing omega-3. Unfortunately, it seems that it is difficult to reach these levels. Around the world, less than 20% of the population more consume than 250 mg per day omega-3, according to an international survey from Micha and co-workers. Why is this? A publication from Fayet-Moore, Baghurst and Meyer models the effect of different types of diets on omega-3 long chain PUFA consumption that provides some insights.

The most useful source of long chain omega-3 PUFA in the diet is fatty fish, however lower levels are also found in other types of fish, as well as in eggs, meat, and in foods to which omega-3 has been added. The authors looked at the long chain omega-3 PUFA content of different foods consumed in Australia, including surveying supermarkets to identify foods enriched with EPA and DHA. Extra omega-3 was added to bread, eggs, yoghurt, milk, a flavored beverage powder, and almond meal. They looked at omega-3 intakes for consumers within four dietary patterns to see how much of the different types of foods were need to meet Australian omega-3 recommendations:

·         High fish consumers, who ate fish with high levels of omega-3 two to three times per week

·         Moderate fish consumers, consuming one portion of fish with high levels of omega-3 once a week, in addition to red meat, eggs and enriched foods

·         Fish non-consumers, who ate meat, eggs and enriched foods

·         Ovo-lactovegetarians, who consumed omega-3 only from enriched foods

Looking at adults, high fish consumers were easily able to meet the omega-3 guidelines as long as weekly diets included one serving of fish containing more than 1200 mg omega-3 per 100g, and two servings of fish containing 200 to 1200 mg omega-3 per 100g. In the group of moderate fish consumption, the omega-3 guideline was met with one serving of high omega-3 fish, one serving of any other type of fish, four servings of red meat, and anywhere between 3 and 26 servings of omega-3 enriched foods. For the non-fish consumers, to meet the omega-3 intake recommendations, an adult had to consume 4 servings of red meat, all eggs had to be enriched, and in addition the weekly diet had to include about 8 servings per day of the various products containing additional omega-3. For ovo-lactovegetarians, the omega-3 intake recommendations were met with 6 enriched eggs, and all milk and bread to be omega-3 enriched (33 to 66 servings per week of enriched foods – a lot!). Even so, some food producers use fish oil to enrich their products, and therefore they may not be acceptable for ovo-lactovegetarians.

This study shows that consumption of fatty fish is very important to help people meet omega-3 recommendations. If fatty fish is not consumed, it can be difficult. Enriched foods can help fill the gap, especially for ovo-lactovegetarians and vegans. The authors report that dietary supplements containing long chain omega-3 PUFA are a good option to help people meet omega-3 recommendations. For vegetarians and vegans, omega-3 produced by algae are the best option.



Main citation:

Flavia Fayet-Moore, Katrine Baghurst, Barbara J. Meyer. Four Models Including Fish, Seafood, Red Meat and Enriched Foods to Achieve Australian Dietary Recommendations for n-3 LCPUFA for All Life-Stages. Nutrients 2015, 7(10), 8602-8614; doi: 10.3390/nu7105413

Supporting citations:

Global Organization for EPA and DHA. Global Recommendations for EPA and DHA Intake (Rev 16 April 2014).

Lisa Jahns, Susan K. Raatz, LuAnn K. Johnson, Sibylle Kranz, Jeffrey T. Silverstein, and Matthew J. Picklo. Intake of Seafood in the US Varies by Age, Income, and Education Level but Not by Race-Ethnicity. Nutrients. 2014 Dec; 6(12): 6060–6075. Published online 2014 Dec 22. doi: 10.3390/nu6126060

Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, Shi P, Fahimi S, Lim S, Andrews KG, Engell RE, Powles J, Ezzati M, Mozaffarian D; Global Burden of Diseases Nutrition and Chronic Diseases Expert Group NutriCoDE. Global, regional, and national consumption levels of dietary fats and oils in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis including 266 country-specific nutrition surveys. BMJ. 2014 Apr 15;348:g2272. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g2272.

Papanikolaou Y, Brooks J, Reider C, Fulgoni VL 3rd. U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008. Nutr J. 2014 Apr 2;13:31. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-31.