Omega-3s, particularly, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential for overall health, as they play many roles in the body. Because the human body doesn’t make these nutrients in sufficient amounts, consumers must get them through the diet. If optimal amounts aren’t maintained, a person can be vulnerable to deficiency and health issues are likely to arise as a result.
Since most people cannot see or feel the direct benefits of omega-3s, the only proof they are getting enough into the body is by measuring them. Enter a nutritional tool called the Omega-3 Index test that measures the percentage of EPA and DHA in red blood cells, specifically in the membrane of the cell. This can all be done with a single blood drop.
Deemed as a long-term and consistent marker of omega-3 status by the test’s co-inventor, Bill Harris, Ph.D., the Omega-3 Index test helps consumers identify, correct and maintain healthy levels of EPA and DHA.
According to Harris, “The Omega-3 Index test can help keep your overall health in check. In a way, it’s the ‘new cholesterol test’—the number you want to brag about."
Not only does the Omega-3 Index measure omega-3 status, it has also been identified as a novel biomarker for cardiovascular risk. So, the higher the body’s level of omega-3s, the lower the risk.
Low Omega-3 Levels = Major Health Issues
The Omega-3 Index test is simply a measure of the amount of EPA and DHA in the blood, or more specifically, red blood cell membranes. In other words, if a person has 64 fatty acids in a cell membrane and three are EPA and DHA, the Omega-3 Index is 4.6 percent.
An Omega-3 Index of 8 percent or higher is ideal, the lowest risk zone. However, most consumers hover around 6 percent or below. And unfortunately, in the United States, most people are at 4 percent or below—the highest risk zone.
Low omega-3 levels are associated with a multitude of health issues such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, eye disease and much more.
Most consumers are not familiar with the Omega-3 Index test. Many don’t even know about the health risks associated with low omega-3 levels. Omega-3 levels are not measured as part of regular bloodwork carried out during annual wellness doctor visits, and testing is usually not an option offered. In fact, some health care practitioners are unaware this test exists. It is likely years away from being a part of routine clinical care.
Making Omega-3s Personal
To elicit positive change and help people around the world raise their Omega-3 Index, the omega-3 industry needs to continue communicating to consumers what constitutes an omega-3 deficiency and how they can test to find out their risk zone. The last part of that puzzle is educating them on the legitimate EPA and DHA options. Taken together, these pieces are what helped Aker BioMarine form the recently launched Omega-3 Index Project.
Aker BioMarine established The Omega-3 Index Project with several industry partners, associations and nonprofits to raise awareness of the risks associated with low omega-3 levels. To achieve healthy omega-3 levels, the group is encouraging doctors to recommend patients check their omega-3 EPA and DHA level by using the Omega-3 Index test.
Health care is more in consumers’ hands than ever before. The medical community realizes medicines are no longer one-size-fits-all. The same is happening on the nutrition front.
The seeds of personalized nutrition were planted in the late 1990s, and now they are really starting to bear fruit. From home tests for food allergies to genetic tests, and now vitamin D and omega-3 testing, consumers can finally pinpoint what food and nutrients they really need, instead of blindly consuming products that may or may not be contributing to their overall health.
Personalized nutrition information will help consumers over the world make bigger and more appropriate changes to their diet. Now that’s a pill everyone can swallow.
Interested in learning more about opportunities for personalized nutritional interventions? Join us for the Making Personalized Nutrition a Reality panel discussion on Thursday, Sept. 28. on Wednesday, Sept. 27, at SupplySide West 2017. The Workshop is underwritten by Superba Krill and Aker BioMarine.
Becky Wright is director of marketing and communications for Aker BioMarine (akerbiomarine.com). She has nearly 20 years of experience in the nutritional products industry.