The Daily
 In the news  Indicators  Releases by subject
 Special interest  Release schedule  Information

Canadian Health Measures Survey: Omega-3 fatty acid levels of adults, 2012 and 2013

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Released: 2015-11-18

More than 4 in 10 Canadians had an Omega-3 Index level indicating that they may be at an elevated risk for coronary heart disease.

In 2012 and 2013, the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) measured red blood cell fatty acid levels, including omega-3 fatty acids and the Omega-3 Index (the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]). The levels are reported as a percentage by weight of total red blood cell fatty acids.

As blood concentrations of EPA and DHA are a strong reflection of dietary intake, the Omega-3 Index is considered to be a good indicator of the potential risk for coronary heart disease mortality. Results of the 2012 and 2013 CHMS indicated that 2.6% of the population were considered at low risk for coronary heart disease, while 54.6% were at intermediate risk and 42.7% were at high risk.

Results on Omega-3 Index levels show that the average Omega-3 Index for Canadian adults was 4.5%. Males averaged 4.3%, which was significantly lower than females at 4.7%.

The risks of coronary heart disease associated with Omega-3 Index levels are as follows (as a percentage by weight of total red blood cell fatty acids): high risk (less than 4%), intermediate risk (4% to 8%) and low risk (greater than 8%).

A number of factors, especially diet and supplements, can affect the levels. For example, Canadians who reported consuming fatty fish within the last month had a significantly higher Omega-3 Index at 5.0% compared with 3.8% for those who did not report consuming any fatty fish. In addition, Canadians who reported taking a supplement containing omega-3 within the last month, had a significantly higher Omega-3 Index at 5.9% compared with 4.3% for those who did not report consuming this type of supplement.

  Note to readers

The Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) is a two-step survey. The first step is a personal interview at the respondent's household. The second step is a visit to the CHMS mobile clinic, where physical measurements and blood and urine samples are taken.

The CHMS was conducted from January 2012 to December 2013.


The fact sheet "Omega-3 fatty acid levels of adults, 2012 and 2013," from the publication Health Fact Sheets (Catalogue number82-625-X), is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.

Weight files and instructions are available for combining cycle 3 Canadian Health Measures Survey data (where possible) with equivalent data from cycle 1 and/or cycle 2.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

Date modified: