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Omega 3 Fatty Acids

RBC Omega-3 Index

There are two main ‘types’ of omega-3 fatty acids: those derived from plants [alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)], and those derived from seafoods [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)]. The omega-3 index is a measure of red blood cell omega-3 fatty acid content (RBC EPA+DHA expressed as a percent of total identified RBC fatty acids).1 These omega-3 fatty acids are important constituents of cell membranes in the body, where the correct fatty acid composition is vital to cardiometabolic and overall health. The omega-3 index has many features that qualify it as not only a biomarker of omega-3 intake, but also as a cardiovascular risk marker and most importantly, a risk factor and target for therapy.The omega-3 index is typically low (< 4%) in individuals who do not ingest significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, either from the diet or as supplements. A low omega-3 index is associated with increased risk for CVD, stroke, and sudden cardiac death.

An optimal omega-3 index (≥ 8%) has positive effects on heart rate, blood pressure, TG levels, inflammatory responses, and endothelial function. Blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are positively associated with leukocyte telomere length, an emerging biomarker of biological age.3 A high omega-3 index may also reduce the impact of stress and aging on the brain, thereby helping to protect cognitive performance and delay the onset of age-related dementia. The omega-3 index can be raised by increasing intake of EPA and DHA oily fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, mackerel) or omega-3 supplements. Vegetarians can obtain omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) from foods including flaxseed, chia seed, certain vegetable oils (e.g., soybean, olive, and walnut), green leafy vegetables (small amounts), or algal omega-3 supplements.

  1. Harris WS, von Schacky C.? Prev Med 2004;39:212–220.
  2. Harris WS. Curr Atheroscler Rep 2009;11:411–417.
  3. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, et al.. Brain Behav Immun 2013;28:16–24.

 

 

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