British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Human and Clinical Nutrition

n-3 PUFA status in school children is associated with beneficial lipid profile, reduced physical activity and increased blood pressure in boys

Camilla T. Damsgaarda1 c1, Ken D. Starka2, Mads F. Hjortha1, Anja Biltoft-Jensena3, Arne Astrupa1, Kim F. Michaelsena1 and Lotte Lauritzena1

a1 Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark

a2 Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada

a3 Division of Nutrition, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Søborg, Denmark


Dietary n-3 long-chain PUFA (LC-PUFA) improve dyslipidaemia and hypertension and may affect insulin resistance and adiposity. Increasing numbers of children show signs of the metabolic syndrome (MetS), but few studies have investigated the association with n-3 LC-PUFA status. We examined the relationship between fasting whole-blood EPA or DHA (w/w% of the total fatty acids, FA%) and markers of the MetS (anthropometry, blood pressure, plasma lipids and glucose homeostasis) cross-sectionally in seventy-three 8–11-year-old Danish children from the OPUS School Meal Pilot Study (OPUS is an acronym of the project ‘Optimal well-being, development and health for Danish children through a healthy New Nordic Diet’ and is supported by a grant from the Nordea Foundation). Also, we explored the potential mediating effects of physical activity and energy intake. Girls had higher body fat percentage (BF%), diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, plasma TAG, insulin, homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance and glycosylated Hb than boys. Sexes did not differ in fish or macronutrient intake or whole-blood fatty acids. After adjustment for sex, age and total whole-blood fatty acid concentration, BF% and HDL:TAG increased with whole-blood EPA (β>0·25, P< 0·05), and HDL increased 0·35 (sem 0·13) mmol/l per FA% EPA increase (β = 0·30, P= 0·008). Unexpectedly, DHA was positively associated with mean arterial pressure in boys (6·3 (sem 1·7) mmHg/FA% DHA increase, β = 0·62, P= 0·001) and reduced physical activity in both sexes ( − 44 (sem 19) counts/min per FA%, β = − 0·22, P= 0·024). The associations with blood pressure and HDL remained after adjustment for physical activity, BF% and energy intake. The present study confirmed the beneficial association between n-3 LC-PUFA status and lipid profile seen in adults, but showed unexpected relationships with physical activity, BF% and blood pressure. This is the third time we have observed such tendencies in Danish children.

(Received August 20 2012)

(Revised January 24 2013)

(Accepted January 24 2013)

(Online publication April 16 2013)

Key Words:

  • n-3 PUFA;
  • Fish;
  • Metabolic syndrome


c1 Corresponding author: C. T. Damsgaard, fax +45 2034 8104, email


  Abbreviations: BF%, body fat percentage; FA%, w/w% of the total fatty acids in the whole blood with retention times between 12 : 0 and 22 : 6n-3; HOMA-IR, homeostasis model assessment-insulin resistance; LC-PUFA, long-chain PUFA; MetS, metabolic syndrome; OPUS, optimal well-being, development and health for Danish children through a healthy New Nordic Diet