Population data on long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCn-3 PUFA) status from biomarkers of dietary intake is lacking. The objectives were to describe plasma LCn-3 PUFA concentrations and compare them to concentrations associated with cardiovascular health and dietary recommendations for two servings of seafood/week.

Fasting plasma fatty acids were measured among 1386 subjects ≥20 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003–2004. LCn-3 concentrations represent the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid, docosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid relative to total fatty acids (expressed as a percentage). Mean LCn-3 PUFA concentration was 2.07% (95% CI 1.95–2.19). Overall, 80.6% of participants had LCn-3 below concentrations recommended for cardiovascular health. Hispanic participants were the most likely to have LCn-3 PUFA below recommended levels. Nearly all participants (95.7%) had LCn-3 below concentrations associated with cardiovascular protection. Older participants (≥60 years) had higher LCn-3 PUFA concentrations than those aged 20–39 years but not aged 40–59 years. LCn-3 PUFA concentrations were lower for Hispanic participants relative to non-Hispanic black participants.

Suboptimal LCn-3 concentrations are common among U.S. adults. These findings highlight the need to increase LCn-3 intake among Americans.