Why Your Omega-3 Index Matters

Jun 25th 2018

Why Your Omega-3 Index Matters

Are you getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet? If you are like 95.7% of Americans, chances are you are falling short. But what does that mean for me? Let’s talk about how to determine if increasing these fatty acids in your diet could improve your health outcomes.*

There are several types of dietary fat. Omega-3 fatty acids are one type of healthy fat. Omega-3s are considered essential fats because our body cannot make them on their own, so we need to consume them in our foods. There are three different types of these healthy fats found in food: Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA); Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA); and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).  Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and are involved with several physiological functions such as eye health,  brain function, and cardiovascular health.*

An Omega-3 Index (O3I) is a simple blood test that reflects the percentage of Omega-3s compared to the total amount of fatty acids present in the red blood cell membranes. There is growing evidence establishing the importance of this measurement as an indication of health and disease risk. Higher O3I has been correlated with larger total normal brain volume and hippocampal volume in aging populations, suggesting reduced risk of the normal brain atrophy that is commonly seen with aging. Moreover, studies have shown that positive changes in brain structure with higher O3I scores lead to improved brain function and are inversely associated with dementia in older adults.*

Omega-3 supplementation can benefit more than the aging population. Associations have been established between blood O3I and cognition and information processing scores in adolescents. For athletes, especially those participating in contact sports, higher O3Is may promote brain health and attenuate long term damaging neural effects of continuous contact during games and practices. Scientific evidence suggests that the red blood cell levels of Omega-3 fatty acids are inversely associated with total mortality rates in all populations.*

To increase your O3I, you simply have to increase your consumption of DHA and EPA by eating marine products rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, or by using an Omega-3 supplement. The optimal O3I is >8% while an index <4% may be regarded as a risk factor. For the general population, an O3I >8% may protect against the chronic conditions that are prevalent in today’s society.*

An O3I test will also show the ratio between Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Omega-6 fatty acids are different in that the first double bond in their carbon chain occurs at carbon number 6 instead of carbon number 3. This might seem like a small change, but it makes a big difference. When the ratio between Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids is excessively high, which is typical in the American diet, it can create a pro inflammatory state which promotes many disease conditions. Increasing Omega-3s in your diet will improve both your O3I and your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, improving overall health outcomes.*

Contact Brain Armor to arrange to have your O3I tested. You’re one finger prick away from better understanding your health risk. What’s your O3I?*

Stacy Cappadona MS, RD, CSCS received her BS in Exercise Science and MS in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition from Florida State University. She has worked with athletes of all ages, active duty military personnel, and is now serving the communities in Southern Oregon at an all inclusive Wellness Club.

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