Healthy fat is one of our favorite topics at Nutritious Life, so we were pretty surprised to find out that there’s a blood test for omega-3 levels that we’d never heard of.
RELATED: Why Healthy Fats Don’t Make You Fat
“You can’t feel low omega-3s, you need a blood test,” explained Dr. Bill Harris, the president and CEO of OmegaQuant and the creator of the omega-3 index, when he stopped by our office (wearing an awesome fish tie, by the way).
Dr. Harris gently pricked our fingers and squeezed a tiny drop of blood onto a special paper card, but most people do the whole thing by themselves at home after ordering the test (which costs $55) online.
Our results came in two weeks later, and between reading through them and talking to Dr. Harris, a leading researcher in the field, we learned a few things.
Are omega-3 levels as important of a marker as cholesterol levels when it comes to preventing disease and living a long, healthy life? Here’s what we found out.
3 Things You Should Know About Omega-3 Levels
1. Testing your blood for healthy fats is totally legit.
The test was actually developed about 15 years ago and has been available to the public for almost a decade, according to Dr. Harris. And according to research, it’s a “validated biomarker of omega-3 fatty acid tissue levels.” What the test does is looks at the membranes of your red blood cells, which is where fatty acids hang out, and reports what percentage of those fatty acids are EPA and DHA, the omega-3s that are most important for good health. Around eight percent is the target percentage.
2. Your omega-3 levels might be lower than you think.
Our team members are super nutrition savvy and we all have close relationships with salmon, but apparently not close enough. Like the vast majority of Americans, our numbers were low—between 4.3 and 4.6 percent. (Of course, Keri didn’t get tested yet, so we’re going to assume her numbers are perfect.) One reason may be that we focus a lot on sources of omega-3s that deliver ALA (like avocado, nuts, and olive oil) instead of EPA and DHA (fish). While the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, it’s not very efficient at doing so.
So what to do? After you get your results, you can put your number into OmegaQuant’s calculator along with a goal percentage and it’ll tell you exactly how much EPA and DHA you should be getting daily (either via fish or supplements) to get your number up to where you want it.