Studies reporting blood levels of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), were systematically identified in order to create a global map identifying countries and regions with different blood levels.

Included studies were those of healthy adults, published in 1980 or later. A total of 298 studies met all inclusion criteria. Studies reported fatty acids in various blood fractions including plasma total lipids (33%), plasma phospholipid (32%), erythrocytes (32%) and whole blood (3.0%). Fatty acid data from each blood fraction were converted to relative weight percentages (wt.%) and then assigned to one of four discrete ranges (high, moderate, low, very low) corresponding to wt.% EPA+DHA in erythrocyte equivalents.

Regions with high EPA+DHA blood levels (>8%) included the Sea of Japan, Scandinavia, and areas with indigenous populations or populations not fully adapted to Westernized food habits. Very low blood levels (≤4%) were observed in North America, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

The present review reveals considerable variability in blood levels of EPA+DHA and the very low to low range of blood EPA+DHA for most of the world may increase global risk for chronic disease.

PMID: 27216485

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