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New dietary survey: ARA and DHA intake levels in developing countries are below levels recommended by recognized, authorized bodies around the globe.

Published on

04 July 2016

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.


  1. Forsyth S, Gautier S, & Salem N Jr; “Global Estimates of Dietary Intake of Docosahexaenoic Acid and Arachidonic Acid in Developing and Developed Countries”; Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 2016; 258–267. http://doi.org/10.1159/000446855
  2. Official Journal of the European Union 25.2.12, Commission regulation (EU) 432/2012 of 16th May 2012
  3. Stark KD, Van Elswyk ME, Higgins MR et al.; “Global survey of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in the blood stream of healthy adults”; Progress in Lipid Research 2016; May 20th. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.plipres.2016.05.001

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