A ‘Dangerous’ Reason Why You Should Test Your Omega-3 Levels!

These healthy fats can help prevent heart disease and other illnesses, but most of us don’t come close to getting enough of them. Now there’s an easy way to know for sure.

The Fats Are Back The popularity of avocado toast, coconut oil and buttery grass-fed coffee shows that fats are back in full force. Much credit for its triumphant return is due to scientific research on omega-3 fatty acids and their positive impact on everything from mood and cognition to heart disease and maintaining a healthy weight. the trick? See if you’re getting enough of these healthy fats.

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The truth about omega-3 fatty acids For years, any type of dietary fat was considered bad for us, especially our hearts. And sure, some types aren’t great — trans fats have been shown to increase levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of good cholesterol (HDL), which can increase your risk of heart disease.

But experts agree that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (MUFAs and PUFAs) usually have the opposite effect, and that omega-3s, in particular, can help fight cell inflammation, which is a strong predictor of heart disease and many diseases.

Research has shown that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, as well as related risk factors such as high blood triglycerides and high blood pressure.

Based on this evidence, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends adults eat between 250 and 500 milligrams of O3s per week, which is the amount you’d get from two servings (8 ounces) of seafood.

More of a Brain Food Omega-3 fatty acids are made up of three types: ALA, EPA and DHA. Other foods rich in fat, such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil, tend to have more ALA, which our bodies use for energy. But EPA and DHA have the strongest association with heart health.

While our bodies can convert ALA into these two other forms, they are not very effective at doing so. “No matter what kind of ALA you get, only about one-tenth of it ends up as DHA or EPA, which is the most valuable for your health,” Glassman says.

So even if you eat relatively healthy, it can be difficult to get optimal levels of those healthy fats. Fatty fish like salmon is an important source, but research routinely shows that most of us don’t get enough.

And other good sources of healthy fats, such as nuts, dairy, or grass-fed meats, can have calories if eaten in large amounts. That’s why you’ve probably seen things like milk fortified with DHA.

Getting the Benefits To reap the benefits, you need to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, because your body can’t make them on its own. Here’s the thing: Fat doesn’t have an official recommended dietary allowance (RDA) like other nutrients, so it’s hard to calculate your daily intake.

And you will not experience any physical side effects from a deficiency as you might from an iron deficiency, for example. So really, says Keri Glassman, RD, founder of nutriiouslife.com, “You don’t necessarily know if you’re only getting optimal levels from food.”

One way people are trying to remedy this is by taking fish oil supplements.

You may need a blood test. You can see how your omega-3 intake is progressing with a simple blood test, which is no more difficult than checking your cholesterol or blood sugar levels. The technology has been around for more than a decade, but the test is still not part of the standard panel performed during routine blood tests.

You should order it from your healthcare provider, although DIY kits that you order online, perform at home, and mail in for results are popular.

How the test works Fatty acids tend to build up in your cell membranes, so a simple blood test can measure your omega-3 concentration and even determine what percentage of that level is made up of EPA and DHA (8 percent is the target for the best heart benefits).

Companies such as Omega-3 Index and OmegaQuant offer tests that you can order online, take at home, and then mail in to get the results, although you may want to go a different route, according to Elizabeth Huggins, RD, at Hilton Head Health, a weighting. Loss and Wellness Resort.

“The level of normal, normal, and low-risk levels for each omega-3 test group can vary from brand to brand,” Huggins says. “In addition, the baseline for healthy omega-3 levels will vary due to additional factors such as heart health and history.”

Results can of course vary greatly if, for example, a mistake has been made when drawing blood. For these reasons, Huggins recommends working with a healthcare provider who is familiar with your medical history to determine your omega-3 levels, how to proceed once you get the results, and how often to test based on your previous test results and medical history.

Ask your doctor Check with your health insurer whether a prescription for the test is useful. If so, the lab will measure the healthy fats in your red blood cells while assessing your heart disease risk and send the results to your doctor for review with you.

Be warned: While there is mounting evidence that an omega-3 test can be just as valuable as other standard heart health indicators, such as cholesterol, most insurance policies don’t cover the cost of the test, which is about $50. .

How often should you test? This type of screening “provides the most accurate measure of omega-3 saturation in your body,” Huggins says, “and is the best way to determine if your intake is appropriate.” But ‘fit’ can also depend on other factors.

The daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids a person needs can vary depending on their current health, any absorption problems, and other risk factors for heart disease. This is one of the reasons Glassman recommends adding an omega-3 test to your regular blood test at your annual physical exam and discussing the results with your health care provider.

“If everything else is fine and your cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels are fine, you may not have too much to worry about,” she says. “Use it as a frame of reference to think about the bigger picture of your diet.”

Next Steps Since your body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, you must get them either from food or from supplements. Most experts recommend adding foods rich in EPA and DHA to your diet before supplementing.

According to a 2015 survey, 95% of Americans don’t get enough of these two heart-healthy compounds, which are most abundant in seafood.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week (especially fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna) (each cooked serving should be 3.5 ounces or about cup shelled fish) .

If you’re not a fan of fish, Huggins says, tofu, spinach, beans, walnuts, wild rice, beef, flax, and canola oils all contain lower amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fortified foods, such as milk fortified with DHA, soy milk, orange juice, eggs, and bread, can also help fill the gap, although they are not the number one choice for nutritionists. If you’re really struggling to get enough heart-healthy fats in your diet, you can always take a fish oil supplement.

Since the dietary supplement industry is largely unregulated and fish oil can interact with some medications and increase the risk of bleeding in some people, consult your healthcare provider about whether or not to take a dietary supplement and how to choose from the many brands .

Source: Reader’s Digest

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