The protective effects of omega-3 fats against heart disease are well known. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends healthy people consume a minimum of two servings of seafood (oily fish are preferred) per week, to provide an average 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA. They recommend supplementation with 1 gram EPA + DHA daily for people with heart disease. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend two servings of seafood per week in people with and without heart disease.

With all these recommendations in place, a group of researchers wondered whether Americans are actually consuming the recommended amounts of omega-3. They conducted a study on the topic, which was recently published in Nutrition Journal. They used data from participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2008, a large, nationally-representative group of people. They found that most US adults are not meeting recommendations for omega-3 EPA and DHA intake.

Adults over 19 years of age consume an average of 41 mg/day EPA and 72 mg/day DHA from foods and supplements. Compared to a previous study published in 2000, which found an average daily intake of 100–200 mg/day EPA + DHA, it appears that our omega-3 intake is not increasing. The researchers call for improved strategies to riase omega-3 consumption as we approach the development and release of Dietary Guidelines for 2015. “As omega-3 fatty acids are deemed important from authoritative bodies, a collaborative strategy of dietary supplementation (i.e., fish oil supplements), food fortification, in addition to food sources (i.e., fish consumption) may need to be considered to achieve recommendations in the American population and to have significant and beneficial public health impact.

We are simply not eating enough omega-3, but that doesn’t surprise me. Most people do not eat oily fish twice weekly. And even if they do, they are getting about 250 mg/day, which is the bare minimum recommended intake in healthy people. If you are dealing with a health issue, you will need at the very least 1,000 mg daily. You would have to eat oily fish every single day to get that amount. That’s why I am such a supporter of high-potency, purified fish oil supplements. It’s the easiest way to ensure that you are getting enough omega-3 each day.