The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are healthy fats that are crucial for early brain development, promote cognitive function throughout life and reduce inflammation. Low omega-3 status is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia and depression.
Most Americans, unless they eat fatty fish regularly, do not get sufficient omega-3s from diet alone. The human body can manufacture DHA and EPA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 building block found in walnuts, flax and chia seeds and in small amounts in green leafy vegetables. However, conversion is generally inefficient and varies between individuals. Men generally convert less than women, and the ability to convert declines with age. Some people are able to achieve adequate levels of EPA and DHA from ALA in the diet, whereas most others do not, even with a healthful diet rich in walnuts, flaxseeds and other ALA-rich foods. Studies have reported low omega-3 levels in the majority of vegans who were not taking supplements.
Fish are rich in DHA and EPA, the critical long chain omega-3 fatty acids, but fish can accumulate environmental pollutants such as mercury and PCBs. Dr. Fuhrman recommends avoiding fish or consuming it in very limited quantities, and using an algae-derived DHA and EPA supplement to improve omega-3 status instead. Fish accumulate omega-3 fatty fatty acids from algae or algae-consuming marine life, and lab-grown algae-derived supplements provide a vegan source of DHA and EPA, free of environmental pollutants.
A blood test is the only reliable way to determine whether your omega-3 levels are in a healthy range. The HS-Omega-3 Index® test measures the level of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in your red blood cells. The omega-3 index is the percentage of DHA and EPA (out of total fatty acids) in red blood cell membranes. An omega-3 index lower than 4 percent is thought to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, though Dr. Fuhrman’s chief concern is loss of brain power with advanced age, for those sustaining an unfavorably low index for most of life.
The test kit includes a test request form, collection instructions, contact-activated lancet and collection card, plastic bag with desiccant packet and paid return envelope. After a simple finger stick using the lancet, you place a drop of blood on the card. The results include a complete fatty acid analysis including the omega-3 index and Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendations for supplementation, if needed, will be emailed back to you. View sample Fatty acid analysis and Omega-3 Index report