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Open Biomark J. 2008;1:1-6.

Determinants of Blood Cell Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content.

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  • 1Division of Epidemiology, Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.



Although red blood cell eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content (the Omega-3 Index) predicts cardiovascular death, the factors determining the Index are unknown.


In 704 outpatients, we undertook an investigation of the clinical determinants of the Index.


Factors associated with the Index in decreasing order were: EPA+DHA supplement use, fish consumption frequency, triglyceride level, age, high cholesterol history, and smoking. These factors explained 59% of Index variability, with capsules/fish intake together accounting for 47%. The Index increased by 13% (p< 0.0001) for each serving level increase in fish intake and EPA+DHA supplementation correlated with a 58% increase (p< 0.0001) regardless of background fish intake (p=0.25; test for interaction). A 100 mg/dL decrease in serum triglycerides was associated with a 15% higher (p<0.0001) Index.


The intake of EPA+DHA-rich foods and supplements principally determined the Omega-3 Index, but explained only about half of the variability.

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