Associations Between Whole Blood and Dietary Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Levels in Collegiate Athletes

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have important physiological functions and may offer select benefits for athletic performance and recovery. The purpose of this investigation was to assess dietary and whole blood omega-3 PUFAs among collegiate athletes. In addition, a brief questionnaire was evaluated as a valid tool for quantifying omega-3 PUFA intake. Fifty-eight athletes (9 males, 49 females) completed a 21-item questionnaire developed to assess omega-3 PUFA intake and provided dried whole blood samples to quantify α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and the HS-Omega-3 Index. Geometric means (95% confidence intervals) for the HS-Omega-3 Index were 4.79% (4.37–5.25%) and 4.75% (4.50–5.01%) for males and females, respectively. Median dietary intakes of ALA, EPA, and DHA were all below 100 mg. Among females, several dietary omega-3 PUFA variables were positively associated with whole blood EPA, with total EPA (rho = 0.67, p < .001) and total DHA (rho = 0.69, p < .001) intakes showing the strongest correlations. Whole blood DHA among females showed positive associations with dietary intakes, with total EPA (rho = 0.62, p < .001) and total DHA (rho = 0.64, p < .001) intakes demonstrating the strongest correlations. The HS-Omega-3 Index in females was positively correlated with all dietary variables except ALA. Among males, the only significant correlation was between food and whole blood EPA (rho = 0.83, p < .01). Collegiate athletes had relatively low intakes of omega-3 PUFAs. A 21-item questionnaire may be useful for screening female athletes for poor omega-3 PUFA status.

Wilson is with the Dept. of Human Movement Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA. Madrigal is with the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.

Address author correspondence to Patrick B. Wilson at pbwilson@odu.edu.