Some of the information in this post was obtained from a conference partially sponsored by DSM and a session they presented, featuring Dr. David Katz from the U.S. and Dr. Hilary Jones from the U.K. I was not asked to include this information on my blog, I am not a consultant for DSM, nor am I being compensated to write this post.
My OMG moment was really an ΩMG moment; Ω (the Greek symbol for omega) standing for my blood levels of omega-3 fats (called the Omega 3 Index). I recently used a home test kit to uncover my blood level of these important fats. I have my cholesterol and triglycerides checked every year, but never thought about checking omega-3 levels. I pricked my finger, collected a drop of blood, and send it off in the mail; the results came back and they weren’t good (For more information on the test, see http://www.omegaquant.com).
As a dietitian, I know I should eat more omega-3-rich fatty fish, as the American Heart Association recommends. But, I grew up eating fish sticks, not salmon. I don’t like salmon, mackerel, trout, or herring…fish with high levels of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are the highly unsaturated fats that are tied to many healthy body functions, including:
· Heart and blood vessel health
· Brain health (our brains are 60% fat)
· Eye health (especially dry eye syndrome)
Omega-3 fats come with some long chemical names, so I’ll skip the biochemistry, and shorten them to the two most important omega 3s: EPA and DHA. There is another omega 3, ALA, found in flax and flaxseed oil, walnuts, and canola oil. While these are healthy fats, the conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA is rather small, so we can’t rely on ALA to provide us with EPA and DHA.
Back to my blood test; my Omega 3 Index was in the low-to moderate range. The Omega 3 Index was named by American and German scientists in early 2000s. Research showed that increasing the index from 3.5 to 6.8% was correlated with a 90% reduction in sudden death. Correlation doesn’t mean causation, but the strength of the association is impressive and makes it worth using the test as a marker to increase awareness of omega-3s. My plan is to increase my intake of omega-3 rich foods and take dietary supplements of fish oil and then repeat the test in the spring to see if I increased my Omega 3 Index.
I’ve already mentioned some fish high in omega-3s, but since I don’t like them, I will eat more crab, shrimp, and scallops. They have lower levels of omega-3s than fatty fish, but can contribute to total intake. Eating fortified foods is also a way to boost intake; eggs, some milk, orange juice, energy bars, and even some peanut butter have added omega-3s. These foods indicate that they have added DHA and EPA on the package, but check the label to find out how much is in each food. Lastly, I started on supplements. I should stay started again…. I used to take fish oil supplements, but stopped a few years ago.
When taking supplements, consider using fish oil or krill oil, and look for supplements that disclose the total amount of DHA and EPA, not just total amount of fish oil. For example, a supplement might say 1200 milligrams of fish oil but not reveal how much of that is EPA and DHA. The supplement I take has 360 milligrams of EPA and 240 milligrams of DHA in 2 pills (serving size is also an important thing to consider.) I don’t have a problem swallowing pills, but for those who do, krill oil might be a better choice because the pills are usually smaller. But, I do take a supplement that is labelled “burpless,” to reduce the fishy after taste of some supplements. Stay tuned; I’ll check in after I retest!
Here are some good resources for more information, including the American Heart Association recommendations on eating fish: