• 2016

Siguiendo la pista de los beneficios para la salud pública de unos niveles adecuados de omega-3


11 agosto 2016

By Manfred Eggersdorfer 

Professor for Healthy Ageing University Medical Center Groningen (UMGG) and Senior Vice President of Nutrition Science and Advocacy at DSM

A new map [1] of the global omega-3 situation shows that adults in most regions of the world have low or very low levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), especially EPA and DHA. This is the first analysis of its kind and it is hoped that the findings can be used to develop national and international recommendations regarding omega-3 intake.

A comprehensive understanding of omega-3 levels

The map is part of a new structured review published in Progress in Lipid Research . It was developed by analyzing 298 studies on the level of EPA and DHA in the bloodstream of healthy adults from around the world, identifying in which regions there is a greater risk of chronic diseases. Regions with very low levels of EPA and DHA in blood (<4%) were North America, South America and Central America, Southern Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The regions of the Sea of ​​Japan and Scandinavia with indigenous populations that have not adopted western eating habits were found to have high levels of EPA and DHA (> 8%).

Regions with higher omega-3 levels such as Scandinavia and the Sea of ​​Japan tend to consume more fish than other regions and often less omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils. The regions with low levels of omega-3 are many, especially in the western world. These results could be a reflection of eating habits as well as consumer's attitude towards supplementation.

Implications for public health

As the World Health Organization indicates , it is estimated that non-communicable diseases kill approximately 38 million people a year worldwide. [2] Omega-3 fatty acids (especially EPA and DHA) have long been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease [3] and cognitive decline [4] . The text indicates that a significant part of the population is at increased risk of non-communicable diseases due to low levels of omega-3s.


  1. [1] Progress in Lipid Research, 20 May 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2016.05.001
  2. [2] WHO Factsheet on non-communicable diseases Jan 2015
  3. [3] Mori et al. 2014 (review), “Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: epidemiology and effects on cardiometabolic risk factors”; Mozaffarian et al. 2013 (study), ”Plasma phospholipid long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and total and cause-specific mortality in older adults: a cohort study”; Lavie et al. 2009 (review), “Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Diseases“; 
  4. [4] Zhang et al. 2016, ”Intakes of fish and PUFAs and mild-to-severe cognitive impairment risks: a dose response meta-analysis of 21 cohort studies”; Mocking et al. 2016, Meta-analysis and meta-regression of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for major depressive disorders; Yurko-Mauro et al. 2015, “Docosahexaenoic Acid and Adult Memory: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”; Stonehouse 2014, “Does consumption of LC Omega-3 PUFA enhance cognitive performance in healthy school-aged children throughout adulthood?”; Witte et al. 2014, “Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids improve brain function and structure in older adults”; Lee et al. 2013, “Docosahexaenoic acid-concentrated fish oil supplementation in subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI): a 12-month randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial”; Richardson et al. 2012, “Docosahexaenoic Acid for Reading, Cognition and Behavior in Children Aged 7–9 Years: A Randomized, Controlled Trial” (The DOLAB Study); Yurko-Mauro et al. 2010, “Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline”; Oulhaj et al. 2016, “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status Enhances the Prevention of Cognitive Decline by B Vitamins in Mild Cognitive Impairment”.

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