Omega-3 home test kit – I took the test

 

 

 

I’ve written a lot about omega-3 fats over the past few years, and I’ve been taking supplements myself for much longer than that.  So when I had the chance to get tested for my omega-3 blood levels, I was excited to finally learn where I stood compared to average levels in this country, and levels that are associated with lower risk for heart disease, based on data from around the world.

omega3pillsWhile omega-3 fats are certainly a very popular topic, there’s surprisingly little information from official government agencies about how much we should be eating and what our blood levels should be.  Instead of a Recommended Daily Intake, we have the very vague “Adequate Intake”, which combines the plant-based alpha-linolenic acid with the biologically active EPA and DHA into one lump.  That value ranges from 1.1 to 1.6 grams/day.  It’s based on what people are already eating, so in fact, there is a massive assumption that what people are consuming right now is optimal for health.  Current intake in the US is responsible for an average blood value of 4%.  According to my colleague, Gretchen Vannice RD,  values associated with reduced disease risk are 8% and higher.  The reasoning seems to be: “This is how much you’re consuming now; therefore that’s enough.”  Great reasoning.

There’s very little evidence so far on how much a person needs to consume to boost blood levels of EPA and DHA, because testing hasn’t been widely applied to omega-3 research.  That needs to change in the future if research data is ever going to be meaningful.  Meanwhile all we’ve got to go on is individual testing, and comparison of the results with levels associated with better health.

I used the home test kit offered by Lipid Technologies.  After you fill out the online request form, you get the test kit in the mail.  It includes instructions, a blood spot collection card, swabs, a retractable lancet and other items.  Fasting isn’t necessary for the test.  You cover 4 circles on the collection card with drops of blood, seal it all up and send it back.

The Lipid Technologies test looks at two indexes of omega-3 status: total omega-3 as a percent of all fatty acids in blood, and what is called the Land’s Test.  This score represents the proportion of highly unsaturated fatty acids in your blood that is omega-3.  This test was developed by omega-3 researcher Dr. Bill Lands, and it’s a way to compare omega-3 level to omega-6 level.  We get omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable fats, and in recent decades our omega-6 intake has skyrocketed due to widespread use of vegetable oils in processed foods.  Omega-6 metabolites have more inflammatory potential than their omega-3 cousins.  Dr. Lands recommends that omega-3 and omega-6 fats be about equal.  In other words, a score of 50% for omega-3 would be good.

My Land’s Test score was slightly below 50%, but my total omega-3 was comfortably at 9%.  DHA was especially high, probably because I take a high DHA supplement.  And by the way, my daily intake is definitely far above that paltry AI level of 1.1 grams/day.  I really glad I had the opportunity to take this test.  If nothing else, it’s assuring to know that the supplements are working.  I definitely look forward to a time when research defines optimal blood levels, as well as optimal daily intake levels.

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