In general, the present NHANES analysis demonstrates that a large percentage of the US adult population is not meeting recommendations for omega-3 fatty acid consumption set forth by the 2010 DGA. Intakes of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, were greater in older adults and in males in comparison to younger adults and females, respectively.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US . The 2010 Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans acknowledged that Americans adults consume too little seafood and should be encouraged to increase consumption to leverage heart health benefits . The DGAC cited previously published literature that demonstrated biological effects of EPA and DHA. Specifically, EPA and DHA supplementation as a treatment strategy lowered blood concentration of triacylglycerol as a marker of CVD, lowered overall mortality in persons with CVD, and lowered arrhythmias and sudden death [19, 20]. This prompted the 2010 DGA to recommend 8 oz of seafood per week to contribute an average of 250 mg per day of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, for all Americans. Furthermore, 2010 DGA  cited the importance of ensuring maternal dietary intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA, during pregnancy and lactation. The American Heart Association’s recommendation is to consume at least two 3.5 oz fish meals per week to reduce the risk of CVD, with an emphasis on fatty fish (i.e., salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines) to increase EPA and DHA . A total of 1 gram per day of EPA plus DHA from a combination of higher omega-3 fatty acid- containing fish and supplements, if needed, in individuals with established CVD [3, 5, 6].
Fish is not a habitually consumed food in the US, creating a challenge in estimating usual intake . In the US, per capita salmon consumption represents the single largest contributor to dietary intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids . Previous findings report intake of total omega-3 fatty acids in the United States to be approximately 1.6 g/day, of which 0.1-0.2 g/day stemming from EPA and DHA and 1.4 g/day from ALA . Our current data show that US adults ≥ 19 years of age consume 0.41 g/day and 0.72 g/day of EPA and DHA from foods and supplements, respectively. While daily intake has increased substantially in nearly two decades, American adults are not meeting recommendations for fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids. Interestingly, our study showed comparable ALA intake to the earlier study , suggesting that plant-based omega-3 fatty acids may not have the consumer awareness when it pertains to heart health benefits.
Both recent and previously published literature, including evidence from randomized controlled trials, have documented the cardiovascular benefits linked to dietary omega-3 fatty acid consumption in CVD patients as well as healthy individuals [3, 7, 23–25]. While CVD is a leading cause of death in Americans, the disease rarely manifests in childhood or adolescence , however, the process begins in childhood and can be highly reversible (see  for review). In contrast, compelling evidence supports that early identification of predisposing factors and lifestyle modifications can significantly reduce the incidence of clinical disease development . Children do not develop atherosclerosis per se, but rather present fatty streaks that are reversible (see  for review). While long-chain omega-3 fatty acid consumption benefits are not well established in children, as they are in adults, preliminary evidence suggests cardiovascular benefits in children, including improved endothelial function  and blood pressure . In fact, when considering blood pressure, researchers have suggested that elevated blood pressure in adulthood may be associated with perinatal omega-3 fatty acid deficiency . Again, such studies suggest that early exposure to dietary long-chain omega-3 are play a critical role in supporting heart health and reducing CVD risk in later life.
A limitation of this report is that the estimates relied on self-reported dietary data for intake of total fish and omega-3 fatty acids from both foods and dietary supplements. The models that we applied also relied on assumptions that reported nutrient intakes from food sources on 24-h recalls were unbiased, and the self-reported dietary supplement intake reflected the true long-term supplement intake. The data presented in the manuscript should also be interpreted ones that provide associations and not cause and effect due to the observational nature of the analysis.