The Omega-3 Index

The Omega-3 Index measures the concentration of two specific omega-3, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) & Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), as a percent of total fatty acids in red blood cell membranes. In recent years, a significant body of research has been published showing that the Omega 3 Index is a very strong predictor of heart disease risk, and especially the risk of dying from a sudden heart attack which contributes to over half of heart disease related deaths. The studies have shown that an Omega 3 Index of 8% or greater is desirable for its cardio-protective benefits.

Unfortunately, studies also suggest that the average Omega 3 Index score in America is only 4% to 5%, placing millions at risk. In SA limited testing of subjects has shown only 15% of subjects has an Omega-3 Index >9%.

The Omega 3 Index: The New Measure of Heart Health

In the Physicians’ Health Study, which involved nearly 15,000 healthy male physicians, there was a greater than 90% reduction in risk of dying from a sudden heart attack for the one-quarter of individuals with the highest  Omega-3 Index compared to those with the lowest levels.  This predictive value was far greater than total cholesterol which showed a 35% reduction in relative risk for those with the lowest cholesterol levels.

The Omega-3 Index appears to be an independent risk factor and not influenced by other heart disease risk factors like cholesterol or blood pressure. All risk factors including the Omega-3 Index should ideally be addressed as part of an overall heart health risk reduction strategy. 

In the Physician’s Health Study a multivariable-adjusted relative risk for sudden cardiac death by quartile of the Omega-3 Index compared with other, more traditional circulating cardiovascular risk factors (C-reactive protein CRP; Homocysteine Hcy; total cholesterol TC; LDL; HDL triglycerides). The quartiles at presumed highest risk (black bars) are set at a relative risk of 1.0. Each subsequent lighter bar represents the risk at each decreasing (or, for HDL and Omega-3 Index, increasing) quartile.

Omega 3 Test: Omega 3 Index and Biological Aging

Recent anti-aging research suggests that a high Omega-3 Index may protect against the biological aging process.  In a study among coronary heart disease patients published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, a high Omega-3 Index was associated with up to a 65% reduction in the rate at which an individual’s cells age as measured by the rate of telomere shortening, a new marker of biological aging.  In this study, patients with the fastest aging cells had an Omega-3 Index of 3.1% whereas those with the slowest aging cells had an Omega-3 Index of 8.7%.

Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio and Whole Body Inflammation

A consequence of the dramatic changes to our food supply over the past 50 years is that typical American diets are very high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, leading to high omega 6: omega-3 ratios.  The Omega 3 home blood test kit is unique because it also provides information on the omega-6: omega-3 ratio, a measure associated with whole body inflammation.  We are now aware of the relationship between systemic and whole body inflammation and many of our largest and fastest growing health conditions including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, allergies, asthma, cancer and many others. 

Together with theOmega-3 Index and Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio, the third very important measure is a comparison of your highly unsaturated omega-3 levels to your highly unsaturated omega-6 levels.  In fact, some leading scientists believe that this is the most important of the three because it considers the key anti-inflammatory omega-3 like EPA & DHA and the most active inflammation promoting omega-6 like Arachidonic Acid (AA).

The Omega 3 Index Home Blood Test Kit and Your Personal Nutrition

Even those taking steps to increase their consumption of omega 3s may not be getting enough.  The body’s response to omega-3 in the diet is influenced by many factors including genetics, age, sex, weight, smoking, medications, and medical conditions, as well as the source and quality of omega-3 and how they are consumed. 

Until recently we had no accurate measure of these biological parameters but fortunately the technology has been developed to accurately analyse red blood cell (RBC) membranes for EPA and DHA levels and other lipid fractions including omega-6, saturated and trans fats. 

This test may well revolutionise our approach to RISK STRATIFICATION for definitive measure of cellular incorporation of omega-3 into cell membranes will modify our approach to prevention of these important disease states.

I believe documenting your Omega-3 Index will profoundly affect your future risk and if applied early in life we should be able to age appropriately without chronic debilitating disease.



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