by Jolie Root, LPN, LNC
Doctors and nutrition experts tell us to eat more fish, likely due to a stream of studies showing us we need more omega-3s, the beneficial fats that fish provide. These fats have been linked to better health from infancy to our golden years and at every age in between. They support growth and development, and heart, brain, vision, and joint health.
So how do we know if we’re getting enough of these vitally important fats? That’s where the Omega-3 Index comes in. It’s a simple blood test that determines if we’re getting enough of the beneficial omega-3s EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The result is expressed as the percent of fatty acids that are EPA and DHA among the total fats in the red blood cell membrane.
The Ideal Target
North American data shows our intake of EPA and DHA is a lackluster average of 100 mg daily. Even worse, one in five of us are getting none of these fats on a daily basis. Based on trials evaluating the value of omega-3s, especially for heart health, the target for our Omega-3 Index is 8 percent.
Here is the challenge: reaching the target of 8 percent on the Omega-3 Index requires an intake in adults of 1,500 to 2,000 mg of omega-3s daily. In children, about half as much would be needed. To support a 500 to 1,000 mg daily intake of EPA and DHA, Americans would need to eat two to four servings of cold-water fish every single week – which most of us don’t. So supporting 1,500 to 2,000 mg through diet alone is very unlikely. Thus, we look to supplements to fill the void.
This is where concentrated omega-3 supplements make our health goals easier to achieve. Imagine that your fish oil capsule provides only 100 to 200 mg of EPA plus DHA. You’d need to take a lot of capsules to get to 2,000 mg daily. On the other hand, if your supplement provides 700 to 1,000 mg of EPA plus DHA, you need only two or three capsules to reach the target intake.
The first step is to determine your Omega-3 Index by ordering an in-home test from OmegaQuant. Then make a goal of reaching 8 percent by raising your omega-3 intake to 1,500 to 2,000 mg daily. Read the supplement facts panel on the back of your bottle of fish oil to see how much EPA plus DHA a serving provides, and most important, how many soft gels represent a serving? Do the math to be sure you’re getting enough every day.
A highly concentrated omega-3 supplement will make it easy and convenient to reach on Omega-3 Index of 8 percent.
The Daily Dose blog features health and wellness articles from Senior Nutritionist & Educator Jolie Root, LPN,LNC; Nutritionist & Educator Laurel Sterling, MA, RDN, CDN; and Featured Guest Blogger Karen Roth, MSNC. Other guest bloggers will also join us.