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Association between Obesity and Omega-3 Status in Healthy Young Women

Isabel E. Young 1,2, Helen M. Parker 1,2, Rebecca L. Cook 1, Nicholas J. O’Dwyer 1, Manohar L. Garg, Kate S. Steinbeck 2,4, Hoi Lun Cheng 2,4, Cheyne Donges 5, Janet L. Franklin 6 andHelen T. O’Connor 1,2
1 Faculty of Medicine and Health, School of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
2 Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia
3 School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia
4 Faculty of Medicine and Health, Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, The University of Sydney Children’s Hospital Westmead, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia
5 School of Exercise Science, Sport and Health, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW 2795, Australia
6 Metabolism and Obesity Services, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia


Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) are essential for healthy development and protect against metabolic disease. However, individuals with obesity may be pre-disposed to experiencing lower n-3 PUFA status than normal-weight individuals. This cross-sectional study examined the relationship between the omega-3 index (O3I), body mass index (BMI) and dietary intake in healthy young women (n = 300; age = 18–35 y), a group not previously focused on. Intake was adjusted for energy using the residuals method, and associations were explored using independent t-tests and Pearson’s correlations. Participants with obesity were found to have significantly lower omega-3 index than normal-weight participants (p < 0.0001); however, no significant differences were observed in mean n-3 PUFA intakes. Even so, energy-adjusted intakes of n-3 PUFAs, with the exception of alpha-linolenic acid, were significantly correlated with O3I. This study demonstrates that O3I is influenced by both BMI and diet in young women; however the relationship between these two variables may be complex. Current intakes of n-3 PUFA observed in young women may not be effective in achieving target O3I levels in those with obesity, and further research is needed to find effective ways of improving n-3 PUFA status in a group already at increased risk of metabolic disease.
Keywords: obesity; omega-3; n-3 PUFA; omega-3 index; young women