Topical Area: Nutritional Epidemiology
Omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids (FAs) have been shown to have a beneficial effect on stress. As college students experience high levels of stress, our objectives were to quantify the relationship of n-3 FAs and fish consumption with perceived stress (PS) in undergraduate students (age 18-24) at a public New England university.
Methods : Data are from the College Health & Nutrition Assessment Survey, an ongoing cross-sectional study. Data were collected from 2012 - 2017 (68% women, age 18.8 years). Complete data were available on 2,477 participants. Diet was assessed by three-day food records; n-3 FA intake was expressed as percent of total energy and categorized by quartile. Participants self-reported intake of fish as servings per week over the past 30 days. Fish intake was categorized as < 2 or ≥2 servings/week. PS was assessed via 10-item, online PS Scale questionnaire (PSS-10). Possible scores range from 0-40, with higher scores indicating more stress (mean 15.8 ± 6.7). Mean differences between n-3 FA intake and PS were analyzed using ANCOVA. Confounders included sex; BMI; academic year; semester; physical activity level; 1st generation student; hours of sleep; presence of disability; current smoker; total energy; and n-6 FAs, sugar, vegetable, sodium, and alcohol intake.
Results : Mean intake of n-3 FA was 0.44 ± 0.21% and 38% consumed ≥2 servings of fish/week. Mean PSS-10 by n-3 FA quartile was 15.5 ± 0.3; 15.9 ± 0.3; 16.0 ± 0.3; 15.0 ± 0.3. No significant differences were observed in the sex and energy adjusted model. There was a trend towards significance between Q3 and Q4 (P=0.08) in the fully adjusted model. In addition, the PSS-10 score was not significantly different between those consuming ≥2 vs < 2 servings of fish/week in minimally or fully-adjusted models. Excluding those reporting fish oil supplement use (1.8%) did not alter our results.
Conclusions : We observed null associations of n-3 FA and fish intake with PSS-10 score among college students. Longitudinal studies in this population are needed to clarify the long-term associations.
Funding Sources : The New Hampshire Agriculture Experiment Station and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Project 1010738.