Original Research| Volume 17, ISSUE 1, P131-141, January 2023

Circulating plasma phospholipid fatty acid levels as a biomarker of habitual dietary fat intake: The INTERMAP/INTERLIPID Study

Published:November 16, 2022DOI:


      • Precisely assessed intake and circulating fatty acid levels were compared.
      • Participants had similar genetic backgrounds but varying fish intakes.
      • Marine-derived n-3 fatty acids showed a high correlation and a linear association.
      • Biosource is promising for the assessment of marine-derived n-3 fatty acids intake.


      Accurate assessment of fat intake is essential to examine relationships between diet and disease risk. However, estimating individual intakes of fat quantity by dietary assessment is difficult.


      We assessed the association of plasma phospholipid fatty acid levels with dietary intake of fatty acids in the INTERMAP/INTERLIPID study, conducted with a standardized protocol.


      The study participants were 1339 men and women ages 40–59 years from five Japanese populations one from Hawaii; four from Japan. Fatty acid intake was estimated from four standardized 24-hour dietary recalls. Plasma phospholipid fatty acid composition was analyzed by gas chromatography. We illustrated the relationship between intake and circulating fatty acid levels using Spearman's rank-correlation coefficients, mean, and median values.


      Spearman's rank-correlation coefficients between intake (g/d) and circulating fatty acid levels (µg/ml) were -0.03 to 0.21 for saturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids and -0.04 to 0.32 for trans fatty acids. The coefficients for essential n-3 and n-6 fatty acids were moderate to high, especially for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), 0.60; docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), 0.41; and EPA+DHA, 0.51. The circulating levels and intake of marine-derived n-3 fatty acids showed a linear association, at least for the intake of EPA+DHA up to 2.1 g/d.


      We observed high correlation between intake and circulating levels of marine-derived n-3 fatty acids in participants from Japanese and Japanese-American populations with high and low fish intake. Plasma phospholipid marine-derived n-3 fatty acid measurements are a simple and reliable biomarker for assessing dietary intake.


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