Korean EPA and DHA intake falling short of recommended levels: KNHANES analysis

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

Researchers established that the average intake of DHA and EPA in Korea is 0.27g per day. ©iStock
Researchers established that the average intake of DHA and EPA in Korea is 0.27g per day. ©iStock

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid

Korean adults are falling far short of recommended daily intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a new study based on the sixth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES) has revealed.

Researchers came to this conclusion after examining 13,937 participants from the cross-sectional and nationally representative survey.

They found the average total omega-3 intake was 1.59g a day, with young adults and those on lower incomes in particular falling short of the recommended daily levels.

However, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) accounted for 80% of the total intake, whereas DHA and EPA accounted for 10.5% and 6.1%, respectively.

The academics, from Dankook University, established the average intake of DHA and EPA in Korea as 0.27g per day.

Although this is similar to many Western countries — with around 0.1g to 0.5g per day and 0.1g to 0.2g per day being consumed in Europe and the United States — they pointed out that at least 0.5g per day was needed to reduce cardiovascular disease risk, and 1g to 2g per day was recommended for treating existing cardiovascular diseases.

Participants aged 19 to 29 years consumed the highest amount of ALA, whereas those aged 50 to 64 years consumed the highest amount of DHA and EPA; this trend was similar in both men and women.

Only ALA consumption was significantly associated with education level. The consumption of all omega-3 fatty acids was significantly associated with monthly income levels.

"In Korea, the current DHA and EPA intake (0.27g/day) must be increased to capitalise on their health benefits,"​ the academics wrote in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Increase intake

When they went into further detail, they discovered individuals aged 19 to 29 years had the highest intake of ALA, whereas their DHA and EPA intake was the lowest, "indicating that young adults in Korea consume less fish and more fatty foods"​.

"Thus, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease among young adults, we recommend increasing the consumption of fish or DHA- or EPA-rich foods,"​ they added.

Among the 18 food groups defined by the KNHANES, the oil group was the major contributor to ALA, followed by the seasoning, grain, legume and nut groups.

The seafood group, particularly mackerel, was the major contributor to EPA and DHA.

The researchers added that there was a strong correlation between monthly income and EPA and DHA consumption.

"Even after adjustment for co-factors (i.e., age, sex and energy intake), monthly income remained significant negative factors affecting (omega-3) intake among Korean people; this is probably because food sources (e.g., seafood and fish oil) are expensive and thus less accessible to the population with lower income."

Source: Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


"Intake ratio and major food sources of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in Korea: a study based on the sixth Korea national health and nutrition examination survey (2013–2014)"

Authors: Ae Wha Ha , Woo Kyoung Kim

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