At the end of each year, we like to reflect on a few of the biggest developments in the vitamin and nutrient world, with a specific focus on omega-3s EPA and DHA, as well as vitamins D and B12. We also like to recap some of our accomplishments just in case you missed them the first time around.
This year, like last year, COVID-19 played a central role in everyone’s lives. And while things are slowly creeping back to normal, we are still far from where many thought we’d be nearly two years into this pandemic. But hopefully a year from now, we will be singing a different tune.
Let’s take a look back at the highlights from 2021.
#1 – OmegaQaunt launched Two New Tests this Year!
For the first time ever, we launched an omega-3 test for pets. Omega-3s are just as important for pets as they are for humans and they serve a lot of the same supportive functions.
With pet parents routinely doling out omega-3s to their pets in the form of fish or supplements, the Omega-3 Index for Pets test allows them to give their pets these important nutrients in a more targeted fashion.
What does this test measure? We’re glad you asked. The Omega-3 Index for Pets measures the omega-3s EPA and DHA in their blood — same as the Omega-3 Index Basic test for humans. However, collecting the sample differs quite a bit from our self-administered test for humans, so keep reading to learn more.
Research shows that omega-3s EPA and DHA provide numerous benefits for pets, including supporting a healthy heart, brain, joints, and immune system, as well as maintaining the integrity of their skin and coat. Unfortunately, these important fatty acids are frequently lacking in pets’ diets, much like their human counterparts.
Testing nutritional status can help pet owners monitor to what extent their pets’ diets are delivering these healthy nutrients and increase them safely as needed based on their omega-3 level.
Similar to the way the Omega-3 Index Test assesses the dietary intake of omega-3s EPA and DHA for humans, OmegaQuant’s Omega-3 Index for Pets test can track their nutritional status, however, there are two major differences.
First, the optimal Omega-3 Index for pets is around 3%, while for humans it is 8%. Also, instead of self-administering the test, the Omega-3 Index for Pets must be carried out by a veterinarian since it requires a blood draw.
“Like in humans, the omega-3s EPA and DHA can help with health issues that have an underlying inflammatory component, but it’s important to know how to dose them,” said Dr. Kristina Harris Jackson, Director of Research at OmegaQuant.
“With high concentrate fish oils, for example, you need to make sure you aren’t overdoing it on the EPA and DHA, while at the same time giving pets enough to achieve therapeutic omega-3 levels. We believe this test will close the loop for pet owners and veterinarians and give them the ability to deliver omega-3s to their to their pets with a bit more precision and peace of mind,” she said.
Currently this test is only available for dogs but we hope to change that in 2022. Keep your eyes out for an Omega-3 Index test for cats — coming soon!
Just a few weeks ago, we launched our newest test, which assesses vitamin B12 status. We are very proud of this introduction, particularly because B12 can be an elusive nutrient for people, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.
Our B12 test measures a substance called methylmalonic acid (uMMA) in the urine, which is a more accurate way of detecting low B12 status. The more MMA you have, the more likely you are to be low in this critical nutrient.
Vitamin B12 is essential for many processes in the cell, and when there is not enough, it causes MMA to accumulate in the cell and spill out into the blood where it eventually gets filtered by the kidney into the urine – where we measure it.
Test results are reported in specific units — mmol MMA/mol creatinine (cr). Optimal vitamin B12 status is indicated when the result is below 2.0 mmol MMA/mol cr. A result above 3.8 mmol/mol cr means B12 status is very low and a true B12 deficiency should be confirmed with further testing and consultation with a healthcare provider.
Vitamin B12 serves several important functions in the body, from supporting red blood cell production and nerve function to brain and heart health. Like most vitamins, B12 must come from the diet, but given the limited sources — it is only found in animal-sourced products and some fortified foods — and its absorption challenges, knowing if you are getting enough even if your diet is perfect is more complex than you think.
For example, because B12 comes from animal sources, vegans and vegetarians typically have the lowest B12 intake. Others who are at risk of deficiency are diabetics who take Metformin and those who have undergone bariatric surgery. Last but not least, women often have higher needs for this nutrient during pregnancy, so testing regularly can help ensure they are getting a healthy amount for themselves and their growing baby.
Harvard Health calls vitamin B12 deficiency sneaky and harmful because people are often unaware that they are critically low until they develop major health issues like jaundice, joint pain, deep depression, memory loss, incontinence, shortness of breath and more. In one study, 40% of 3000 subjects were found to be vitamin B12 deficient. If this is true of the rest of America, more that 80 million adults may have a B12 deficiency.
Our B12 status test is slightly different from our other tests in that it requires a urine sample instead of blood. Fortunately, the device that comes with the kit allows for safe, easy, seamless sample collection.
Once the sample has been collected, you simply mail it back to the lab where it is analyzed. About three to five days after we receive your sample, you will be notified that your results are ready. OmegaQuant provides personalized, actionable health information based on your results.
“Vitamin B12 is an incredibly important nutrient for people of all ages. And knowing your status early on can help you avoid major health issues down the road,” said OmegaQuant’s Dr. Jackson. “Our goal at OmegaQuant is to give consumers safe, easy tools that can help them approach their nutrition with a bit more precision. Our new Vitamin B12 test is the latest tool in our toolbox.”
#2 – We Launched a New Broadcast Series Called OmegaMatters
OmegaMatters is a new video series hosted by Drs. Kristina Harris Jackson and Bill Harris, which will help put some of the most important research into context. Together and with invited guests, they will focus mainly on omega-3 fatty acids, but from time to time will explore other corners of the fatty acid world as well as other nutrients like vitamin D and B12. Check out their series intro here.
Check out this year’s 12 Episodes:
#3 – OmegaQuant Founder, Dr. Bill Harris, Named Among Top 2% of Scientists Worldwide
Earlier this year, we were so proud to receive the news that Dr. Bill Harris, OmegaQuant’s founder, is among the top 2% of scientists in the world. Although Dr. Harris moved on full time to establish the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI) in late 2020, he is still very much part of the fabric here at OmegaQuant and we celebrate him for this accomplishment.
In this exhaustive list of nearly 160,000 scientists, Dr. Harris landed at 2164 for his overall scientific impact. “Impact” was essentially defined as the number of times other researchers referred back in their papers, or “cited,” the published work of a given scientist.
For this study, Stanford University researchers analyzed data from the mid-1990s through 2019, covering millions of scientists worldwide in all fields of science. The study created a public database of standardized citation metrics for the top scientists in the world classified into 22 scientific fields and 176 sub-fields. These findings were published in PLOS Biology.
In the fatty acid field specifically, Dr. Harris is in good company, with fellow researchers Philip Calder, PhD (University of South Hampton, UK), and Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH (Tufts University, Boston), ranking at 250 and 502, respectively.
Dr. Harris has been researching fatty acids for more than 40 years and to date has published more than 300 papers on these nutrients. Since co-inventing the Omega-3 Index in 2004, it has been used by him and many others in hundreds of other research papers.
“We continue to build the evidence base for the importance of the Omega-3 Index in human health by working with some of the most prestigious research institutions in the world. To date, we’ve worked with more than 100 of them including Harvard, Tufts, Columbia, Stanford, Oxford, and even the US Army,” Dr. Harris said.
Currently, Dr. Harris is at the helm of the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), a non-profit research and education foundation that focuses on publishing high-quality research studies on the multiple relationships between fatty acid levels and human (and animal) health outcomes. “These studies will improve our ability to predict risk for disease, and more importantly, suggest ways to reduce risk by changing our diets and/or supplementation regimens,” he explained.
Reflecting on how he achieved this level of success in science, Dr. Harris commented, “I was extremely lucky! At the very beginning of my career in the late 1970s, my mentor (Dr. Bill Connor, 8441 on the list) assigned me to study the effects of salmon oil on serum cholesterol levels. That was my introduction to omega-3 fatty acids, and largely because of the truly pioneering work of Jorn Dyerberg (35,635 on the list) in Greenland Inuits, the omega-3 field began to explode in the 1980s. I have simply ridden this horse since then and don’t plan to get off until they drag me off the saddle!”
He further noted, “This achievement is also a testimony to how important the identification of a biomarker like the Omega-3 Index was (and continues to be) as a stimulus to expanding research and publications in this field.”
#4 – The Omega-3 Index Could Add Years to Your Life
In April, a research paper examining the relationship between the Omega-3 Index and risk for death from any and all causes was published in Nature Communications. It showed that those people with higher omega-3 EPA and DHA blood levels (i.e., Omega-3 Index) lived longer than those with lower levels.
In other words, those people who died with relatively low omega-3 levels died prematurely, i.e., all else being equal, they might have lived longer had their levels been higher.
Numerous studies have investigated the link between omega-3s and diseases affecting the heart, brain, eyes and joints, but few studies have examined their possible effects on lifespan.
In Japan, omega-3 intakes and blood levels are higher than most other countries in the world AND they happen to live longer than most. Coincidence? Possibly, or maybe a high Omega-3 Index is part of the explanation.
Studies reporting estimated dietary fish or omega-3 intake have reported benefits on risk for death from all causes, but “diet record” studies carry little weight because of the imprecision in getting at true EPA and DHA intakes. Studies using biomarkers – i.e., blood levels – of omega-3 are much more believable because the “exposure” variable is objective.
This new paper is from the FORCE – Fatty Acids & Outcomes Research Consortium. FORCE is comprised of researchers around the world that have gathered data on blood fatty acid levels in large groups of study subjects (or cohorts) and have followed those individuals over many years to determine what diseases they develop. These data are then pooled to get a clearer picture of these relationships than a single cohort can provide. The current study focused on omega-3 levels and the risk for death during the follow-up period, and it is the largest study yet to do so.
Specifically, this report is a prospective analysis of pooled data from 17 separate cohorts from around the world, including 42,466 people followed for 16 years on average during which time 15,720 people died.
When FORCE researchers examined the risk for death from any cause, the people who had the highest EPA+DHA levels (i.e., at the 90th percentile) had a statistically significant, 13% lower risk for death than people with EPA+DHA levels in the 10th percentile.
When they looked at three major causes of death – cardiovascular disease, cancer and all other causes combined – they found statistically significant risk reductions (again comparing the 90th vs 10th percentile) of 15%, 11%, and 13%, respectively.
The range between the 10th and 90th percentile for EPA+DHA was (in terms of red blood cell membrane omega-3 levels, i.e., the Omega-3 Index) about 3.5% to 7.6%. From other research, an optimal Omega-3 Index is 8% or higher.
In this paper, the authors noted that these findings suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may beneficially affect overall health and thus slow the aging process, and that they are not just good for heart disease.
A few months after this study was published, another published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that having a low Omega-3 Index could be just as dangerous as smoking.
The study used data from a long-term study group, the Framingham Offspring Cohort, which has been monitoring residents of this Massachusetts town, in the United States, since 1971.
Researchers have found that omega-3 levels in blood erythrocytes (the so-called red blood cells) are very good mortality risk predictors. “Having higher levels of these acids in the blood, as a result of regularly including oily fish in the diet, increases life expectancy by almost five years,” as Dr. Aleix Sala-Vila, a postdoctoral researcher in the IMIM’s Cardiovascular Risk and Nutrition Research Group and an author of the study, points out. In contrast, “Being a regular smoker takes 4.7 years off your life expectancy, the same as you gain if you have high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood,” he adds.
#5 – Global Omega-3 Day Makes Its Mark
2021 marked the first ever Global Omega-3 Day. We were proud to be part of this day because it recognizes the importance of omega-3s EPA and DHA. It’s about time these humble nutrients — the 5th most studied substances in the world — get their day in the spotlight.
Did you know that omega-3s are among the most studied molecules in the scientific literature? It’s true. Check out the chart below. Omega-3s are more studied than Lipitor, Metformin, Sodium and Vitamin E.
Back to Omega-3 Day. It’s one day dedicated to celebrating the health benefits of omega-3s EPA and DHA, and it takes place each year on March 3rd, which also happens to be “03/03.”
This special day was conceived by The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), which has big plans for its future. GOED represents the worldwide EPA and DHA omega-3 industry, and its membership is built on a quality standard unparalleled in the market. Its mission is to increase consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3s and ensure that its members produce quality products that consumers can trust. GOED is also an important educational resource for consumers and health professionals.
So what motivated GOED to establish Global Omega-3 Day? Elana Natker, GOED’s Director of Healthcare Practitioner and Consumer Communications, says it stemmed from the documented need for these important fatty acids around the world.
“While most people worldwide are aware of EPA and DHA omega-3s, intake is staggeringly low. There’s also a fair amount of confusion about omega-3s in general, including which foods are the best sources of EPA and DHA,” she said. “That’s why we created the first annual Global Omega-3 Day™ on March 3 (03-03) — to create an anchor point for the omega-3 industry to communicate the benefits of marine-based omega-3s, and the ways to get more through diet and nutrient supplementation.”
Mark your calendars for March 3, 2022. We will be offering our biggest one-day discount, so you don’t want to miss it!
That’s it for us at OmegaQuant. We hope you have a happy, healthy holiday and look forward to bringing you the latest and greatest information in 2022.