Omega-3s have surpassed antioxidants as one of the most popular health terms searched on Google. But like antioxidants, most people don’t know what omega-3s are, where they come from, what they do, or how much to take.
Let’s start with what they are. Omega-3s, specifically EPA and DHA, are long-chain fatty acids typically found in fish, certain microalgae and krill. You might be surprised to know that there are actually more studies on omega-3s EPA/DHA than ibuprofen, folic acid and vitamin E (Global Organization for EPA & DHA Omega-3s). In fact, they’ve been clinically studied in the areas of heart, brain, joint, and eye health.
The best sources of omega-3s are fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel and tuna. Omega-3 supplements that provide EPA and DHA are also good alternatives if you don’t like eating fish.
But how do you know if you are getting enough?
The reality is each person has different nutritional needs that are impacted by lifestyles, genetics and diet, so the only way to truly know if you are taking enough omega-3s to reap the protective benefits is to test your level using a simple nutritional status test called the Omega-3 Index.
Do you need a doctor for that? No. This simple blood test that you can do at home will help you take the guesswork out of it. The Omega-3 Index measures the amount of the key omega-3s – EPA and DHA – in the blood. By measuring these fatty acids, you will get an idea of your current omega-3 level, which has a direct correlation to your cardiovascular risk.
Did you know that the Omega-3 Index is actually a better predictor of risk for death than serum cholesterol? A study published in March 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 most recent 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.
In a blog we wrote earlier this year, the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), showed that a higher Omega-3 Index was also associated with a lower risk for total cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, total coronary heart disease events, and total strokes.
The Rise of Personalization
Today, there are so many options that enable us to take care of ourselves, from apps, to virtual medical consultations, to home testing of all kinds. Add to this the growing trend of “personalizing” everything from vitamin regimens to prepared meals to snacks, and even a service that does all three like Bulu Box.
The challenge with nutrition is that each person has their own unique needs. Gone are the days when multivitamins provided low level health insurance for most people — there is no one-size fits all approach anymore. Turns out that everyone at every age has unique nutritional needs, especially when it comes to omega-3s.
And the truth is you shouldn’t stand for blindly eating your omega-3-rich seafood or taking your omega-3 supplements and hoping for the best. You should know whether your products are working for you.
2018 Will be a Good Year for Omega-3s – Choose Wisely
Earlier this year, Forbes singled out EPA and DHA specifically as two nutrients that will explode in foods and beverages in 2018. So chances are omega-3s will be in more places than ever, which is a good thing since most consumers are deficient in these nutrients. Still, everyone should know their Omega-3 Index so you can choose your omega-3s wisely.