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  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.  Omega-3 fatty acids (especially EPA and DHA) have long been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease  and cognitive decline  . 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.