Optimal omega-3 status (meaning the amount of omega-3 that is actually in your cells) is linked with many different aspects of good health, from having a healthy immune system, heart and brain, improved mood, good sleep, energy and recovery from exercise, to reduced risk and severity of Alzheimer’s, heart disease and inflammatory illness. Yet, when it comes to the benefits we can each gain from consuming omega-3 fats, there is much more at play than just the amount that passes your lips.
The research is now very clear that the benefits of omega-3s rely heavily on improving the omega-3 index (the % of our red blood cells made up of EPA and DHA omega-3s), which should be around 8-10%. With this level being affected by a huge number of factors that differ from person to person, there is no knowing whether your levels are ‘optimal’ and if you are, in fact, gaining the protection omega-3 intake should be offering you. That is, of course, unless you test your omega-3 red blood cell levels, with a very simple and painless at-home kit that extracts a few drops of blood. Still, you may be wondering if it’s worth the investment to test your fatty acid levels. Here are my top 5 reasons why we should all consider testing our omega-3 levels before or during supplementation, an investment that will help restore and maintain good long-term health, which is, I assume a key reason you are supplementing.
1. Get your personalised dose guidelines
Your body weight, size and gender affect how much omega-3 you need. If you are taking a generic dose, it’s a matter of luck whether you are taking the right amount for you. Our Opti-O-3 test not only tells you your current omega-3 status but provides you with exactly the right dose (as determined by rigorous scientific studies) to help you achieve ‘ideal’ levels within 6 months.
2.Make sure you aren’t taking too much omega-3!
If you are a health conscious consumer and you are already well aware of the benefits of healthy omega-3 levels, you may feel that your high intake of omega-3, from lots of oily fish and a daily supplement, is definitely looking after your health. As with so many things in nutrition, too much of a good thing might no longer be a good thing. The fats in our cells need to be delicately balanced and excessive omega-3 could end up reducing your inflammatory balance (which is vital for immune function and healing injuries), whilst also increasing your risk of oxidative stress levels (which is linked to a whole host of health conditions and depletes essential antioxidant stores in the body). Testing your fatty acid levels can help you determine if you could be putting yourself at risk from too much omega-3, not to mention the saving by reducing unnecessary intake.
3. Diet versus supplements – is your diet providing what you need?
In an ideal world we would get everything we need to be healthy from the foods we eat. Sadly, changes in food supply and processing means the amount of omega-3 in fish can vary hugely. Today farmed salmon delivers around half the omega-3s that it did even five years ago, and wild salmon (the form we would recommend you consume for optimal health) delivers even less. So, even if you are eating the government-recommended 1-2 portions of oily fish a week, the chances are it may still not be enough. Topping up with a good quality highly purified fish oil product might be the only way to know for sure that your blood level of omega-3s can reach the desirable level. Your personalised dose guidelines take into account your current dietary intake, and recommend any additional omega-3 needed.
4. Find out which other fats you might need
When it comes to maintaining healthy cells it’s not just about optimising omega-3s. Despite their bad reputation, it’s actually important to have adequate levels of omega-6, 7 and 9 – as well as healthy saturated and monounsaturated fats (and minimal trans fats!). Our nutritionists can help you understand if the other fats in your cells are within healthy limits and which fats, in addition to omega-3, you might need a little more or less of to help feel your best.
5. Understand what other factors might be affecting your health.
Sometimes testing can reveal a lot more than what we originally set out to discover. For example, if you are taking huge amounts of omega-3 but your cellular levels are still low, this could indicate that there are other biological factors at play that might be preventing you from absorbing or using those fats and gaining their full benefits. If you have a sensitive digestive system you may struggle with fat digestion, so no matter how much omega-3 fat you consume, much of it will be passed out in the stool. Alternatively you might be taking lots of oil, have healthy levels but still shows signs of excess inflammation; this could be a sign you need to address a few other areas of your health. Sometimes it’s good to rule out low fatty acid levels if you have a specific health condition. Our nutritionists can help you understand which other factors might be contributing to current health concerns or future risk, and allow you to get to the bottom of the issue faster, without wasting time and money on supplementing the wrong things which might not be of use to you.
Regardless of why you choose to test, we are all unique, and simply knowing what might be going on at a cellular level can empower us to make more positive steps to a healthier, happier future.