Omega 3s, 6s and the Omega 3 Index

Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty Acids

They are chemicals in the body made up of carbon atoms with double bonds. The omega 3 comes from the double bond being three positions back from the last carbon atom. It is six back for omega 6’s  (bit of geeky science fun fact).
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are forms of Omega 3’s from animals that are unique and confer health benefits.These long chain Omega 3’s are strongly correlated to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is a form of omega 3 from plants. Its bioavailability is poor in the human body with only 1% converted to EPA and DHA. Soybean oil contains around 7% ALA. Flaxseed contains around 55% ALA.
Linoleic acid is a form of Omega 6 fatty acid. High levels of linoleic acid is correlated to being least likely to die from cardiovascular disease!

"If Omega 6’s (linoleic acid) was harmful. Then you would see the people with the highest levels developing chronic diseases; heart disease and diabetes than those people with low levels. Yet, it is exactly the reverse.”  Dr Bill Harris.

Omega Index

A measure of DHA and EPA in your red blood cells.
It is presented as a percentage relative to your total fatty acids in your blood.
A level of 8-12% is the level associated with being optimal for health.
The Omega 3 Index can be viewed as a risk factor and a risk marker for developing chronic disease.
In order to understand how much omega 3’s you require in your diet, you first need to understand your current level.

“The problem in America and the Western World is the lack of long chain Omega 3’s, it’s not the presence of Omega 6’s.” Dr Bill Harris


"We should be viewing Omega 3 as a lifelong nutrient, not just something to be given at the end of life. From -9 months of age all the way through." Dr Bill Harris


“You can't put all your eggs in a randomised controlled trial bucket. You cannot decide if Omega 3’s are good for your heart over your whole life. (Not) from a trial done at the end of life for a lot of people who are already at high risk. They are not irrelevant yet need to be looked at in context.” Dr Bill Harris

We are big fans of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). They are a high level of evidence in the scheme of science. However, the point that Bill is making here is valid. It is what Dr Peter Attia will often refer to as Medicine 3.0. Taking the available evidence and then looking at the bigger picture. Nutritional studies are hard to execute over a long period of time due to compliance issues and methodology. Prospective studies are useful to look at trends over time, especially when confounding factors like smoking, income, exercise and other factors are considered. When looking at the total available evidence it would appear to suggest that Omega 3’s are beneficial to your health. Having optimal levels from early in life may reduce the risk of developing chronic disease later in life.


Scott Tindal
May 6, 2024
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