Study: Just 1 in 5 Australians consume enough omega-3

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Nutrition

The vast majority of Australians fail to meet the recommended daily intake for long-chain omega-3, largely due to the nation’s preference for meat over fish, according to research by the University of Wollongong’s School of Medicine.

In an analysis published in the journal Nutrition​ and based on the 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, author Barbara Meyers found that most of the fatty acids consumed by Australians was sourced from meat, rather than seafood, the richest source of long-chain omega-3s (n-3 LCPUFA).

The results demonstrate that the majority of Australians still follow a typical western diet that is very high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, or good fats, which protect against many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer.

Omega-3s are also effective against “bad​” LDL cholesterol, reduce the risk of stroke and play a role in foetal development, especially of the unborn baby's brain.

Finding that fish consumption has not changed since 1995, Associate Professor Meyers concluded that Australians now consume at least six times more meat than fish or seafood.

Yet consumption of only 26g of fish or seafood provides more than double the n-3 LCPUFA than if one was to consume approximately 150g of meat​.,” she wrote 

She added that, when expressed as long-grain omega-3 consumption per gram of food, fish and seafood are 15 times higher than meat. Moreover, half of adults who consume omega-3 supplements are meeting the recommended intake, whereas this figure is just 10% for those who do not take supplements.

Guidelines advise women to consume 430mg/day of long-chain omega-3s, and men 610mg/day. However, the current median adult intake is just 126 mg/day from food and 154 mg/day from both food and supplements. 

Some people are consuming higher quantities, but the vast majority of the population is consuming much lower amounts, the study found.

Through an assessment of more than 12,000 Australians, the research also revealed that only 10% of childbearing women meet the recommended intake for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) during pregnancy and lactation.

Prof. Meyers said the findings could have far-reaching health implications, especially for cardiovascular health and foetal development.

Responding to the study, Carl Gibson of CMA, which represents the Australian complementary medicines industry, said it illustrated the growing use and acceptance of supplements by Australians. 

Many are aware that their diets are not as good as they should be, and now recognise that omega-3 is essential for optimal health yet is significantly lacking in their diet. In fact, for those 65 and over, the portion of omega-3 coming from supplements is 40%​,” Gibson said. 

While it is very important to obtain enough beneficial omega-3, including DHA, from your diet, supplementation can be of a great assistance in maintaining optimal health​.”


Nutrients​ 2016, 8​(3), 111; doi:10.3390/nu8030111

Australians are not meeting the recommended intakes for omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids: Results of an analysis from the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey​.”

Author: Barbara J. Meyer

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