CQ Medical

Role of Omega-3 Index

How it works for you

The Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Brain and Mental Health

Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are important structural components of cell membranes, serve as precursors to bioactive lipid mediators, and provide a source of energy.

Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in particular exert anti-inflammatory effects; it is recommended to increase their presence in the diet since our usual diet is high in vegetable oils and fast foods contain too much omega 6-fatty acids which are considered to be pro-inflammatory.

The Omega-3 Index is defined as the amount of EPA plus DHA in red blood cell membranes expressed as the percent of total red blood cell membrane fatty acids. The EPA + DHA content of red blood cell membranes correlates with that of all body cells, and several observational studies indicate that a lower omega-3 index is associated with increased health risk and increased mortality.

It is therefore proposed that the Omega-3 Index be used as a biomarker for risk assessment for many diseases, among them heart disease, brain diseases like Alzheimer’s dementia, mental illness, depression, anxiety, asthma, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and general health and longevity.

The Omega-3 Index is actually two things. Most important, it is a risk factor for the brain, and heart disease, just like cholesterol. But it is also an actual test you can take to assess your omega-3 status. Unlike a cholesterol test, you don’t need a doctor to obtain an Omega-3 Index test. The index can be measured by specific analytical methods using a simple blood sample. In fact, it’s quite simple; if 8% of all the fatty acids present in red cell membranes are EPA+DHA, the Omega-3 Index is 8%.

In fact, most doctors won’t automatically test your omega-3 level during annual visits, even though it is well known that most people don’t get sufficient amounts of these nutrients from their diets.

Optimal Omega-3 Index and How Can It Be Improved?

An Omega-3 Index >8% is optimal while an index of <4% may be regarded as deficient.
The simplest way to improve the Omega-3 Index is to increase the intake of EPA and DHA by taking Omega-3 Booster (highly concentrated EPA & DHA) or eating a lot of marine products rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies show that the Omega-3 Index is influenced by the intake of EPA and DHA: Generally, the three months consumption of Omega-3 Booster can increase the Omega-3 Index, however, it is important to know that the Omega-3 Index is also influenced by age, diabetes, body mass index, gender, physical activity, and some other factors, like social status and alcohol intake.

Independent of the Omega-3 Index, the increased intake of EPA and DHA has several other health benefits as well. It is vitally important that EPA & DHA intake improves the Omega-3 Index and in effect improves receptors function of the endocannabinoid system. Additionally, EPA and DHA are precursors to substances called eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are important regulators of inflammation. Therefore, many experts believe that an Omega-3 Index greater than 5 may help to reduce chronic low-grade inflammation.

Recommendations For the Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

For people without cardiovascular disease, most experts recommend eating a variety of fish (preferably oily) at least twice a week to maintain a mean intake of 4-500 mg of EPA+DHA daily.
For those with documented coronary heart disease, a daily dose of EPA+DHA of 1g per day is recommended, preferably from fish. This can be achieved by eating oily fish 4-5 times a week. Fish oil supplements are a more controllable daily dosage.
Many fish oils supplements are available; however, it is important to read the label, making sure that enough EPA and DHA are available for a single dose.

Omega-3 Health Benefits

Brain Health

Omega-3s can promote brain health during pregnancy and the early life of a child. In fact, omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in infants. DHA accounts for 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain, therefore, it’s no surprise that infants fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants fed a formula without it. Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy is associated with numerous benefits for your child, including higher intelligence, better communication, and social skills, fewer behavioral problems, and decreased risk of developmental delay.

Mental health
Omega-3 FAs intake shows improvements in depression and anxiety disorders. Of the three ALA, DHA, & EPA fatty acids, the EPA appears to be the best at fighting depression and anxiety.

Heart Health
Omega-3s Can Improve risk factors for heart attacks and strokes which are the world’s leading causes of death.

Eye Health
Omega-3’s DHA fatty acid, is a major structural component of the retina of the eye. DHA accounts for 60% of the retina of your eye. When you don’t get enough DHA, vision problems may arise. Consuming enough omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness.

Blood pressure
Omega-3s can reduce blood pressure levels.

“Good” HDL cholesterol
Omega-3s can raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels.

Blood clots
Omega-3s can keep blood platelets from clumping together. This helps prevent the formation of harmful blood clots.

Triglycerides
Omega-3s can cause a 15%–30% reduction in triglycerides.

Plaque
By keeping your arteries smooth and free from damage, omega-3s help prevent plaque that can restrict and harden your arteries.

Inflammation
Omega-3s reduce the production of some substances released during your body’s inflammatory response. Notably, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines.

ADHD in children
Omega-3s help improve inattention and task completion. They also decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness, and aggression of ADHD in children.
Omega-3s improve attention and reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and aggression.