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Open Access Research

Omega-3 fatty acids status in human subjects estimated using a food frequency questionnaire and plasma phospholipids levels

Véronique Garneau123, Iwona Rudkowska123, Ann-Marie Paradis123, Gaston Godin4, Pierre Julien2, Louis Pérusse235 and Marie-Claude Vohl123*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Laval University, Québec, Canada

2 Genomics and Endocrinology, Laval University Medical Center, Québec, Canada

3 Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods, Québec, Canada

4 Faculty of Nursing, Laval University, Québec, Canada

5 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Laval University, Québec, Canada

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Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:46  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-46

Published: 9 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Intakes of omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids (FA) are associated with several health benefits. The aim of this study was to verify whether intakes of n-3 FA estimated from a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) correlate with n-3 FA levels measured in plasma phospholipids (PL).

Methods

The study sample consisted of 200 French-Canadians men and women aged between 18 to 55 years. Dietary data were collected using a validated FFQ. Fasting blood samples were collected and the plasma PL FA profile was measured by gas chromatography.

Results

Low intakes of n-3 long-chain FA together with low percentages of n-3 long-chain FA in plasma PL were found in French-Canadian population. Daily intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were similar between men and women. Yet, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and total n-3 FA intakes were significantly higher in men compared to women (ALA: 2.28 g and 1.69 g, p < 0.0001, total n-3 FA: 2.57 g and 1.99 g, p < 0.0001; respectively). In plasma PL, DPA and DHA percentages were significantly different between men and women (DPA: 1.03% and 0.88%, p < 0.0001, DHA: 3.00% and 3.43%, p = 0.0005; respectively). Moreover, DHA (men: r = 0.52, p < 0.0001; women: r = 0.57, p < 0.0001) and total n-3 FA (men: r = 0.47, p < 0.0001; women: r = 0.52, p < 0.0001) intakes were positively correlated to their respective plasma PL FA levels. In women, EPA (r = 0.44, p < 0.0001) and DPA (r = 0.23, p = 0.02) intakes were also correlated respectively with EPA and DPA plasma PL FA percentages.

Conclusion

Estimated n-3 long-chain FA intake among this young and well-educated French-Canadian population is lower than the recommendations. Further, FFQ data is comparable to plasma PL results to estimate DHA and total n-3 FA status in healthy individuals as well as to evaluate the EPA and DPA status in women. Overall, this FFQ could be used as a simple, low-cost tool in future studies to rank n-3 FA status of individuals.

Keywords:
Food frequency questionnaire; Plasma phospholipids; n-3 PUFA; Biomarker; Gas chromatography