What Does the Omega 3 Index tell us About our Mortality Risk?

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Nutrition World > Omega 3 > What Does the Omega 3 Index tell us About our Mortality Risk?

“The omega 3 index is a better predictor of health and a better predictor of mortality risk than cholesterol.”

The omega 3 index is a better predictor of health and a better predictor of mortality risk than cholesterol. - Sam Wiley, Founder of Wiley's Finest Click To Tweet

Most people want to understand their risk of mortality, especially as they age. Health providers usually point us to cholesterol tests. And yet, one underutilized test give us a better idea of our mortality risk. The omega 3 index test.

You might be thinking, the what?!?!?? That’s because few health providers recommend looking at the omega 3 index.

We’re here to arm you with information about the omega 3 index, how to get test results, optimal blood ranges, and what you can do to get in the optimal zone.

But before we dive in, let’s cover the basics of Omega 3s and why they’re so important to maintaining optimal health.

Contents of This Article

Why are Omega 3’s so Important?

What Does the Omega 3 Index Test tell us?

How to get an Omega 3 Index Test

Optimal Blood Results

How to Get in the Optimal Zone

What the Heck are the Different Omega 3’s Anyway?

Safety and Benefits: The Good Part

Getting Omega 3’s From Food

Selecting a Quality Supplement

What if I’m Vegan or Vegetarian?

How Much Should I Take?

Why are Omega 3’s so Important? 📢

Simply put, Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of healthy fat that our body needs to function properly. Our bodies can’t make them, so we have to get them from our diet (and/or supplements).

Another reason for the boost in interest in Omega 3’s has to do with their cousins, the Omega 6 fatty acids.  We need both Omega 3 and Omega 6 to be healthy, but the key is in the balance between them.

Omega 6’s help us turn on our inflammatory response when we need it to protect us from an immediate threat, such as a virus or an injury. Omega 3’s help us when the threat is gone and we need to turn off the inflammation. If we have a higher concentration of Omega 6, we’re gonna have a hard time turning off the inflammation engine. And, as we now know, long term inflammation is a leading precursor to chronic illness and disease.

The Omega 6 Problem

Herein lies the problem: A typical modern Western diet filled with corn-raised meats, vegetable and seed oils, farmed fish, and processed foods is estimated to leave the average American with an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of up to 16:1, but the ratio we’re genetically built for is actually between 4:1 and 1:1.

And that’s why the omega 3 index test can give us important information about our risk of mortality. A 2018 omega 3 index study published in The Journal of Clinical Lipidology indicated the test serves as a better predictor of health and a better predictor of mortality risk than cholesterol. 

What Does the Omega 3 Index Test tell us?

The research shows a correlation between heart disease risk and the omega 3 index test results. So, what does the omega 3 index test actually tell us?

Your red blood cell membranes are made up of fatty acids. The test measures the percentage of omega 3 fats that make up the cell walls of your red blood cells. You don’t want to have too much and you don’t want to have too little.

How Do You Get an Omega 3 Index Test?

Most health care providers never recommend the Omega 3 Index test. So, the most straightforward and effective way to determine your Omega 3 index is an at-home blood test. Like Wiley’s Omega-3 Index Basic Blood Test. The test measures the amount of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in red blood cell membranes.

Optimal Test Results

The average American has 4% to 4.5% omega 3s in their blood cell walls. Turns out, that’s not nearly enough! As a matter of fact, some sources say you increase your risk of a cardiac event by 90% if your levels fall in the 4% range or below. Research suggests a test result of 8% – 12% significantly decreases your risk of cardiac event.

If You’re not in the Optimal Range, how do you Affect Better Results?

If your blood results don’t fall in the optimal range, what can you do to increase your omega 3 index?

We would always love to recommend getting essential nutrients through your diet. However, in the case of omega 3s, you would still need to take a supplement to get your blood levels to the optimal range, even if you eat fish 3 times a week!

That’s why it’s important to get plenty of Omega 3 in your diet through wild caught fish and pasture raised, grass fed meats containing Omega 3’s in the form of EPA and DHA. And yet, we can see in the example above, that it’s almost impossible to get all the omega 3s you need through your diet alone.

Your omega 3 index test result will help you determine your daily requirement of omega 3 supplementation.  Then after about 12 weeks, you can retest to see if you need to increase or decrease your dose.

After you use an at-home test, you can always reach out to our wellness consultants. They can guide you through your omega 3 supplement decisions as you work to increase the amount of omega 3s in your blood.

→ Get a Session With a Wellness Consultant Here!

Here’s the good news. You can fix your balance of omegas with diet and supplementation! BUT, you’ve got to get the right ingredients in your diet and in your omega 3 supplement to affect your bloodwork. We’ll get into all that, but first, an itty bitty tiny baby science lesson.

omega 3 index blood test box front

Try Wiley's Finest Omega 3 Index Test Kit

What the Heck are the Different Omega 3’s Anyway?

Depending on the source, we’re told that there are between 5 and 11 Omega 3 fatty acids. The 3 most critical to your health include:

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)

A word about ALA

ALA is found in plant-based sources, such as flaxseeds, olive oil, avocados, and walnuts. But why do Omega 3 supplement labels typically only list DHA and EPA? 

Simply put, ALA can’t be used by the body in its original form. It has to be converted to one of our friends DHA or EPA. On top of that, humans aren’t great at converting ALA, and only convert a small percentage. As such, a quality supplement will prioritize the levels of DHA and EPA.

Safety and Benefits of Omega 3 Supplements 🦺

Multiple studies have shown low risk and high tolerance for even high doses of Omega 3 supplement. And we get excited about that news! Because they also offer a wide range of valuable health benefits. See below:

  • Improved heart health: Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce triglycerides, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends a daily dose of 4000 mg of DHA and EPA for those with cardiovascular disease.
  • Reduced inflammation: Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation throughout the body. This may be helpful in managing conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Improved brain function: Omega-3s are important for brain function and can help improve cognitive function and memory. 
  • Reduced anxiety and depression: Omega-3 supplements may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as improve mood.
  • Improved eye health: Omega-3s are important for eye health and may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
  • Improved joint health: Omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Better skin health: Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation and improve skin health, reducing the risk of conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
  • Improved mental health: Some studies have found evidence that high dose Omega 3 supplementation can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Omega 3’s From Food 🥑

The best way to improve your Omega 3 levels is to eat foods high in Omega 3’s and to incorporate a high quality supplement. 

Foods High in ALA include: 

Flax Seeds

Hemp Seeds

Chia Seeds

Avocado

Pumpkin Seeds

Foods High in DHA Include:

Salmon

Mackerel

Tuna (but be careful of mercury intake!)

Herring

Sardines

Spirulina

Seaweed

Chlorella

Foods High in EPA Include: 

Salmon

Mackerel

Tuna

Herring

Sardines

Shellfish

Goat Cheese

Beef

Selecting a Quality Supplement 📋

Now that we know that we’re looking for DHA and EPA in our supplements, there’s one more thing to look for. We want to ensure that DHA and EPA comprise the bulk of the overall Omega 3 content in the supplement. The label should tell you the volume of DHA and EPA versus the total volume of Omega 3’s in each serving. According to Sam Wiley of Wiley’s Finest, 500 mg of DHA and EPA per serving is a good minimum.

Another important factor when selecting an Omega 3 Supplement is how it’s stored and shipped. Omega 3’s are quite temperature sensitive, and can become rancid. If you’ve ever had a fish oil supplement that was fishy or had gone bad, you’re unlikely to forget the experience. If your supplement is delivered in a non-climate-controlled truck (like UPS or Amazon), your supplement may well destabilize in transit.

A fishy taste doesn’t always indicate rancidity, though. Some supplements just taste fishier than others, so you may want to experiment with the brand and the formulation. Wiley’s finest, for example, goes to great lengths to formulate supplements that don’t taste fishy at all. We strive to offer the best tasting supplements the market has to offer and go to great lengths to ensure our supplements are refrigerated during shipping – both to our store and to your home if you order online. If the fish oil supplement you purchase elsewhere does not arrive with a cool pack, you may be headed for some, well, fishy burps down the road.

A third thing to look for in your supplement prodiver is third party testing from organizations such as the US Pharmacopeia (USP) or the National Science Foundation (NSF). These organizations will also test for the presence of PCB’s, heavy metals, and other toxins.

Read more about ineffective Omega 3 supplements here.

What if I’m Vegan or Vegetarian? 🥕

No worries, there, mate. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can use a supplement derived from algae. Whole Earth, CatchFree, and Garden of Life are just a few brands that offer this option.  It might take a little more effort to reach your optimum daily dose with these, but they’re still a great option. One of our wellness consultants can help you understand how algae supplements can help you get to your optimal omega 3 index levels.

How Much Should I Take? 💊

There are a number of factors that can be considered when choosing the right dose for your supplement. For example, if your diet is high in processed foods, or if you deal with chronic stress, or if you have cardiovascular disease, your needs will likely be higher. 

There are some general guidelines you can use to get you started, though. Some sources recommend up to 3 or 4 grams per day for healthy adults. On the more conservative end, the recommended daily intake amounts according to the National Institutes of Health range from 500mg per day to 1.6 grams per day depending on age and sex. Always talk to your doctor about supplements you plan to add, and whether they could interact with any prescription medications you might be taking.

Listen to our full discussion about the Omega 3 index with Sam Wiley here. 

The Bottom Line 🎣

Most experts and supplement providers recommend a regimen that includes at least two weekly servings of Omega 3-rich wild caught fish or meat, Omega 3 rich vegetables, alongside a high quality, properly stored Omega 3 supplement. Your heart, your mind, and your joints will thank you!

→ If you want a professional to do your bloodwork for you, stop by Nutrition World here in Chattanooga and use the bloodwork services from our partners.
Disclaimer. The information on this website and the topics discussed have not been evaluated by the FDA. Or, any one of the medical profession. And it is not aimed to replace any advice you may receive from your medical practitioner. Nutrition World assumes no responsibility or liability whatsoever on the behalf of any purchaser or reader of any of these materials. Nutrition World is not a doctor, nor does it claim to be. Please consult your physician before beginning any health regimen. If you are being treated for any medical illness, check with your medical professional before starting any protocol