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Background: Estimation of the intake of oily fish at a population level is difficult. The measurement of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in biological samples may provide a useful biomarker of intake. Objective: We identified the most appropriate biomarkers for the assessment of habitual oily fish intake and changes in intake by elucidating the dose- and time-dependent response of EPA and DHA incorporation into various biological samples that represent roles in fatty acid transport, function, and storage. Design: This was a double-blind, randomized, controlled intervention trial in 204men andwomen that lasted 12 mo. EPA andDHA capsules were provided in a manner to reflect sporadic consumption of oily fish (ie, 1, 2, or 4 times/wk). EPA and DHAwere assessed at 9 time points over 12 mo in 9 sample types (red blood cells, mononuclear cells, platelets, buccal cells, adipose tissue, plasma phosphatidylcholine, triglycerides, cholesteryl esters, and nonesterified fatty acids). Results: A dose response (P < 0.05) was observed for EPA and DHA in all pools except for red blood cell EPA (P = 0.057). EPA and DHA measures in plasma phosphatidylcholine and platelets were best for the discrimination between different intakes (P < 0.0001). The rate of incorporation varied between sample types, with the time to maximal incorporation ranging from days (plasma phosphatidylcholine) to months (mononuclear cells) to >12 mo (adipose tissue). Conclusions: Plasma phosphatidylcholine EPA plus DHAwas identified as the most suitable biomarker of acute changes in EPA and DHA intake, and platelet and mononuclear cell EPA plus DHAwere the most suitable biomarkers of habitual intake. This trial was registered at Current Controlled Trials ( as ISRCTN48398526. © 2012 American Society for Nutrition.

Original publication




Journal article


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Publication Date





748 - 758