Omega 3 index?
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids important for good health. Among the three main omega-3s alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), only ALA is considered as an essential fatty acid since our bodies cannot synthetize it. It must therefore be provided through diet. Note that although the body is able to synthesize EPA and DHA from this essential fatty acid ALA, it is only done in a small amount. It is therefore recommended to get enough EPA and DHA from the diet.
Omega-3 Index corresponds to the amount of the omega-3s EPA and DHA, in red blood cell membranes, expressed as a percentage of total fatty acids. Omega-3 Index is an indicator of better overall health and a higher omega-3 Index has, among others, been associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and have many benefits for our bodies, brains and hearts. Omega-3s, in particular EPA and DHA, play crucial roles in the development, functioning, and aging of the brain. EPA and DHA also participate in several metabolic signaling pathways and are involved in the production of anti-inflammatory molecules.
EPA and DHA are not only crucial for normal brain function, but also for heart function since they promote healthy blood flow. Also, getting more EPA and DHA from the diet can help lower triglyceride levels, therefore decreasing the risk of heart disease. They are also and serve as precursors for different compounds needed for example to support healthy respiratory function and intestinal barrier integrity.
Low levels of omega-3 have been associated with an increased risk in developing psychiatric disorders such as mood swings, depression, anxiety and dementia. Moreover, omega-3s deficiency combined with too much intake of omega-6 fatty acids can throw the body off balance and lead to the development of low-grade inflammation in the body.
That being said, consuming excessive doses of omega-3s through dietary supplements is not recommended. It can cause some mild to more serious side effects, ranging from bad body odor and bad breath to increasing the risk of bleeding and reducing the immune function.
Healthy levels of omega-3 are beneficial for athletes. High-intensity exercise generates free radical compounds which in excess, lead to an inflammatory state. Healthy levels in EPA and DHA support proper anti-inflammatory processes to reduce inflammation. Various studies suggest that DHA and EPA may be beneficial for athletes’ performance by improving endurance capacity and delaying onset of muscle soreness.
Thankfully, omega-3s can be found in many foods. ALA is mainly found in nuts, seeds and plant oils, whether EPA and DHA are mostly from animal sources. Omega-3s from vegetal sources can be found in certain vegetal oils (e.g. canola/rapeseed, flaxseed, camelina, walnut, hempseed), seeds (e.g. flaxseed, chia) and walnuts. Omega-3s from animal sources can be found in fatty fish (e.g. salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, anchovy, fresh tuna, trout), shellfish (e.g. crab, mussels, oysters) and fish roe, omega-3-enriched eggs, meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals.
In conclusion, our omega-3 index levels impact many aspects of our mental and physical health. In order to make sure that your omega-3 index levels are balanced and steady, make sure to test your levels and to evaluate how you can make the right changes to rebalance your body and mind.