Development of Metabolic Syndrome Reduced in Young Adults Consuming more DHA/EPA

February 8, 2016


Intake of Fish and Long-Chain Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Incidence of Metabolic Syndrome among American Young Adults: a 25-year Follow-up Study
Kim, Y. S. et al., European. J. Nutrition, in press, 2016
Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health-Bloomington, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA


The so-called ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ (MetS) refers to the presence of at least three of the following five conditions: elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting blood glucose, high blood serum triglyceride levels, low circulating HDL-cholesterol levels, and obesity. The presence of MetS is closely related to the risk of developing both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Some of these five conditions have been found previously to be favourably modified by higher intakes of fish and/or long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EPA plus DHA in controlled intervention trials. The present study was designed to determine if the intakes of fish or long-chain omega-3 intakes in young adults (average age of 25 years) from various regions of the US could influence the subsequent development of MetS over the next 25 years. For this purpose, 4356 young American adults (free from MetS or diabetes at baseline) were subjected to dietary assessments and determinations of nutrient intakes (via questionnaires along with nutrient compositional databases) performed at baseline and at examination years 7 and 20. Subjects were clinically assessed at entry and every few years up to 25 years for attaining (or not) the criteria (at least 3 of the 5 conditions) for MetS.

During the 25-year follow-up, 1068 incident cases of MetS were identified (representing 25 % of the participants). Progressively higher intakes of non-fried fish were inversely related to the incidence of MetS. After adjusting for multiple variables, higher intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids were also inversely related to MetS incidence. Those in the highest quintile (top 20 %) with respect to intakes (average of 0.33 grams = 330 mgs/person/day) exhibited a 46 % lower risk of developing MetS as compared to those in the lowest quintile (average of 0.03 grams/person/day). Those in the highest quintile for EPA intakes (average of 0.14 grams/person/day) had a 46 % lower risk compared to the lowest quintile (average of 0.01 grams/person/day). For DHA intakes, those in the highest quintile (average of 0.16 grams/person/day) had a 64 % lower risk as compared to the lowest quintile (average of 0.01 grams/person/day). The authors concluded that these findings support recommendations of fish consumption or long-chain omega-3 intake for the primary prevention of MetS.

Dr. Holub's Comments:

MetS is a major and escalating public health and clinical challenge worldwide. It is present in approximately 8-43 % of men and 7-56 % of women in various parts of the world. Any nutritional strategy than can play a preventive role with respect to MetS is of utmost importance in reducing subsequent morbidity and mortality in addition to dramatic savings in health care costs. Dietary strategies arising from this study would obviously include the increased consumption of non-fried fish which provide ample amounts of EPA/DHA omega-3 and are free from or contain insignificant levels of any contaminants that may present any concern based on government health guidelines. Added options for enhancing EPA/DHA intakes would be fortified foods (processed, egg/dairy produce enriched with long-chain omega-3, quality supplements). It is interesting to note that inverse relationships between higher intakes of EPA/DHA were found in this follow-up study with all five components of MetS.

Return to Other Health Conditions Research