By Rob Winwood
A global dietary intake survey (1) of arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake was carried out in 175 countries – 47 defined as developed and 128 classified as developing. The median levels of ARA intake were between 210 and 250 mg per day in developed countries, but only 82 mg per day in developing countries. The levels of DHA intake were generally much lower than recommended in developing countries. In most of Asia (with the exception of the East), sub-Saharan Africa and South America, median DHA intakes ranged from 44.9 to 81.6 mg per day.
The recommended intake level of DHA by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for older children and adults for maintenance of brain and visual health is 250 mg per day (2).
The highest intake levels of ARA and DHA were found in the Maldives, while the lowest were found in Rwanda and Ethiopia.
A recent review paper of 298 studies (3) measured marine omega-3 fatty acid levels in blood around the globe. The researchers found very low tissue levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (i.e., an omega-3 index of 4 or less) in North America, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa. This level puts these populations at greatly increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This review demonstrates that low intake levels of marine omega-3 fatty acids leads to low DHA tissue levels.