Food Sources of EPA and DHA in the Diets of American Children, NHANES 2003-2010

Sibylle Kranz, Lyndsey R. Huss, Jennifer Dobbs-Oates

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Dietary eicosapentaenoicacid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in the highest concentrations in fish and seafood. As important nutrients for brain and eye development and function, their consumption levels are of public health interest, especially in children. This study was conducted toexamine children’sreported consumption of fish and shellfish as well as EPA and DHA intake.

Secondary analysis of dietary intake (24-hour recall) and Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) data ascertaining habitual fish and seafood intake of 2-18 year olds (N=13,441) participating in the 2003-2004, 2005-2006, 2007-2008, and 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). All analyses were survey design corrected and weighted (one-day dietary intake weight) and conducted for the total sample by age group (2-5, 6-11, 12-18 year olds); analysis was conducted for EPA and DHA combined.

Less than 50% of the children consumed fish (49.0%) or shellfish (35.9%) and only 0.3% of the population consumed fish high in EPA and DHA. Children consumed, on average, less than 25% of the recommended amount of EPA and DHA. The foods that contributed the highest average of EPA and DHA to the diet were canned sardines, cooked salmon, and fried carp. The EPA and DHA-containing foods consumed by at least one child in the population with the highest EPA and DHA densities were sturgeon roe, baked/broiled mackerel, and sardines.

Results of this nationally representative study of 2-18 year olds show that children had suboptimal consumption of fish and shellfish, and EPA and DHA reported intakes were much below the recommended amounts. Further research is needed to examine the barriers to higher fish and shellfish consumption and to develop effective ways to increase children’s dietary intake of EPA and DHA.
Original languageEnglish
Article number005
Number of pages12
JournalBAOJ Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2015


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