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The Omega-3 Index: A Way to Measure Your Tissue Levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Jan 23rd 2024

The Omega-3 Index: A Way to Measure Your Tissue Levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We’ve been writing recently about the importance of a particular family of fatty acids called the omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are found in flaxseeds and flax oil, green leafy vegetables, and non-farmed fatty fish, like salmon, anchovies, herring and sardines. Thousands of studies have shown that having high levels of omega-3s in your blood helps to prevent and reverse all kinds of chronic disease, including heart disease, cognitive decline and dementia, diabetes, cancer, depression and anxiety, eye problems like macular degeneration, arthritis, autoimmune disease, neurological disease and more. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly how much omega-3s you had in your tissues?  Well, now you can!

Dr. William Harris is a research professor at the Sanford School of Medicine in South Dakota.  He has been studying fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids since the 1970s. With fifty years of research under his belt and over 80 published papers, he is an expert in the field.

About ten years ago, he developed a test he calls the Omega-3 Index, available through OmegaQuant, that measures the percent of omega-3s in the membranes of your red blood cells compared to other fatty acids in the membrane. Not only is this a good reflection of the omega-3s in your tissues, it gives you a picture of your omega-3 status over time. This is because red blood cells live about 120 days; thus the Omega-3 Index shows your omega-3 status for the last 3-4 months.

The Omega-3 Index has now been used in over a hundred research publications, some of them from major studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.  Enough evidence has been accumulated to say that a score of 4% and below indicates high risk for disease, a score of 8% or above indicates low risk, and a score between 4-8% indicates various degrees of intermediate risk. 

At this point, it doesn’t appear that there is an upper level of omega-3s that is harmful. The Japanese, who eat a lot of fish, average 9½-10% (twice the average for Americans). Some Japanese measure as high as 20% with no apparent harm.  Instead, they seem to experience only positive effects. 

Beyond Health has no connection with Dr. Harris or OmegaQuant, but we’re passing along information on this test because it seems like a useful tool for anyone who wants to take charge of their health. The basic test is $50 and can be ordered directly from OmegaQuant without a blood draw (they just need one drop of your blood, which you can supply by pricking your finger).  For $75 you can also get your trans fat index, your omega-3:omega-6 ratio, and your AA:EPA ratio (AA is an important omega-6 fatty acid; EPA an important omega-3 fatty acid).  The most complete test ($100) measures 26 different types of fatty acids. 

References:

  1. Mercola J. An interview with Dr. William Harris about Omega-3, undated, accessed August 6, 2020

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Information contained in NewsClips articles should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.