Testing your nutritional status is one thing you can do to find out if your diet is truly delivering the nutrients that are supposed to keep you healthy. In fact, many consumers and doctors are interested in how to test nutritional status, which has prompted an influx of products assessing everything from vitamin D to omega-3 levels.
There are also the ever-popular genetic tests like 23andMe, Habit, and GenoPalate, which offer “personalized” eating and nutrition recommendations based on your DNA. These tests will do things like assess your ideal intake of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals, and spit out a list of foods that have a nutrition profile that matches best with your genetic-based nutrition recommendations.
But nutritional blood tests like the Omega-3 Index are very different. First of all, there is no DNA involved at all. The Omega-3 Index looks at blood levels of the fatty acids commonly known as EPA and DHA. And having a certain range of these nutrients in the blood can predict your risk of certain health issues.
Nutritional assessment tests like the Omega-3 Index offer you a baseline from which you can improve your nutritional status — in this case, your intake of omega-3s. Simply think of these nutrients as your fuel, the body as your fuel tank, and a nutritional test as your fuel gauge. A nutritional blood test will indicate if you are “full” or closer to “empty.” Most people, not surprisingly, are closer to empty, especially when it comes to omega-3s.
In fact, a 2016 study found that when calculating blood levels of omega-3s (i.e. Omega-3 Index), most people were deficient. In this study, the countries with the highest Omega-3 Index values were those in Scandinavia, the Sea of Japan, and areas where indigenous people do not eat a Western diet.
The areas with the lowest Omega-3 Index values were North and South America, parts of the Middle East and India. Considering the traditional diets of these countries, the Omega-3 Index values match what we would expect to see. In other words, most people with low levels of omega-3s are not eating enough seafood, which is the best source of these important nutrients.
In the case of omega-3s this is very important because there tends to be a lot of confusion about which ones matter most. Only the ones called EPA and DHA will raise your body’s fuel gauge (i.e., Omega-3 Index) to health-protective levels. Another common omega-3, ALA, will convert to EPA and DHA but it is a very inefficient process. Plus, there is already plenty of ALA in most people’s diets. So most experts recommend direct consumption of EPA and DHA via fatty fish like salmon or omega-3 supplements like fish oil.
The Omega-3 Index from OmegaQuant was the first omega-3 test offered to the public and the clinical community in 2004. Originally proposed in the Journal of Preventative Medicine by Drs. Bill Harris and Clemens von Schacky, this development created the entire market for omega-3 testing, and has set the standard for quality and clinical relevance ever since.
Just a simple finger stick and one drop of blood is all it takes to measure your Omega-3 Index. You don’t need a prescription and you can take the test in the comfort of your own home. But there are several other advantages of the Omega-3 Index from OmegaQuant that are very important to consider.
- Not All Labs Testing for Omega-3s Are Created Equal
The Omega-3 Index test is not a simple clinical lab test like cholesterol or glucose. It is a very unique and complex test such that any lab attempting to do it needs to have serious expertise in the specific methodologies that are involved. There are six seemingly mundane steps that make all the difference in a final Omega-3 Index score. Any changes in those steps will impact your Omega-3 Index result. Only OmegaQuant follows all six of these important steps in measuring your omega-3 nutritional status.
So just because a lab says that they are providing the “Omega-3 Index” does not mean it’s the same one OmegaQuant provides. The good news is OmegaQuant has labs in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, which means customers will benefit from the same accurate, precise and scientifically validated methods offered by the original test. And the fact that the method used in OmegaQuant’s Omega-3 Index test has been published speaks to its precision, accuracy, and stability.
- The Omega-3 Index Test Has Clinical Meaning
The Omega-3 Index has the advantage of being used in some of the largest clinical studies. The most important part about being in these studies is that you can trust the number you get from your Omega-3 Index score and tie it to clinical outcomes. The Omega-3 Index score of between 8% and 12% has been identified as being the most protective zone for omega-3s by numerous studies.
For example, the Omega-3 Index has been used in major epidemiologic studies like the Framingham Heart Study, the Heart & Soul Study, and the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. Further, OmegaQuant was selected by AstraZeneca to analyze samples for the STRENGTH study — a major randomized controlled trial of EPA+DHA for reducing risk for heart disease, the results of which are due out in 2020. The study is following 13,000 patients for three to five years.
Thus, an important reason for using the Omega-3 Index from OmegaQuant is that it has clinical meaning, i.e., you know how a given Omega-3 Index level is linked with disease risk. An “Omega-3 Index” value from another lab cannot be assumed to have any clinical meaning.
- The Omega-3 Index Helps Your Personalize Your Omega-3 Intake
Almost 10% of Americans now take an omega-3 supplement and many people also eat fish, which, in the case of salmon, can deliver high payloads of EPA and DHA. But how exactly these fatty acids will be absorbed and used by the body is unique to each person. The reality is each person has different nutritional needs that are impacted by lifestyles, genetics and diet. The only way to know if you are getting enough of the right omega-3s is to test your omega-3 level using an Omega-3 Index test.
It doesn’t make sense to blindly eat your omega-3-rich seafood or take your omega-3 supplements and hope for the best. You should know whether your products are working for you, and most important, that you are getting enough of the right omega-3s.
- The Omega-3 Index Is Internationally Recognized and Standardized
OmegaQuant’s Omega-3 Index is the only internationally recognized and standardized omega-3 test. Most recently, OmegaQuant’s Omega-3 Index and Prenatal DHA test kits were registered in the EU as in vitro diagnostic medical devices. They are also CE-marked, which is the regulatory approval it needs to sell into Europe. This means the tests are now accessible in Europe, as well as in the US and Asia-Pacific.
To facilitate this, OmegaQuant partnered with the Nutritional Analytical Service at the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, Scotland, to carry out the analysis of its omega-3 tests coming in from European consumers.
Another important aspect to consider is level of research expertise of the founders/leaders of laboratories currently offering an Omega-3 Index test directly to the public (not just for research purposes).
OmegaQuant founder and CSO, Dr. Harris, co-invented the Omega-3 Index test alongside Dr. Clemens von Schacky, the founder and President of Omegametrix (Munich). The scientific lead at Lipid Technologies (Austin, MN) is Dr. Douglas Bibus, and the scientist who established the test at Nutrasource Diagnostics was Dr. Bruce Holub (now emeritus). To date, Dr. Harris has authored more than 240 research papers on omega-3s.
- Constant Collaboration with Research Institutions to Strengthen Omega-3 Science
It is incredibly important to strengthen the scientific foundation of the Omega-3 Index, which is why OmegaQuant has spent so much time collaborating with several scientific institutions, including Duke, The US Army, Harvard, Columbia, Ohio State, and Boston University. This work allows OmegaQuant to have more confidence that the Omega-3 Index has clinical meaning and significance for your health.
To date, the company has worked with more than 50 research institutions in various studies, large and small.
- The Omega-3 Index Could Be More Important than Your Cholesterol Level
Did you know that the Omega-3 Index is actually a better predictor of risk for death than serum cholesterol? A study published last year in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology showed that the risk for death from any cause for those ages 66 to 73 was 33% lower in people with the highest vs. the lowest Omega-3 Index.
The link between higher omega-3 blood levels and lower risk for death has been reported in at least three other studies, but what was novel about this study from Framingham was a comparison the authors did between serum cholesterol and the Omega-3 Index, two “risk factors” for heart disease. The conclusion of the study was that if you think cholesterol is important to track, then you should also track your Omega-3 Index.