Omega + Essential Fatty Acids Testing
Omega fats and the fatty acid test panel provides a set of health indicators highlighting risks of heart health, inflammation, and potential risks of brain health, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers.
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What are Omega fats?
Omega fats belong to the polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) family with some members exerting a protective effect on our health whereas others having harmful effect. There are a few members in the family that you should become familiar with such as Omega-3, 6, 7, and 9. Omega-3’s and omega-6’s are known as ‘essential’ fats as they are essential for us and cannot be made in our body (or are made in very small amounts). Therefore we need a ‘ready-made’ supply in our diet.
How do Omega 3’s help?
Omega-3’s are touted for their anti-inflammatory antioxidant and anticoagulant (anti-clotting) benefits.
Several scientific research studies provide strong evidence in favour of Omega-3’s protective role in heart-health, especially:
- from fatal heart disease
- stabilising irregular heartbeats and
- reducing the risk of another heart attack in those who have already had one.
The long chains of these fats make our cell membranes more flexible and fluid. Omega-3’s are linked to other benefits also, such as:
- slowing age-related decline in brain function,
- reducing inflammation (such as in rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases),
- decreasing risk of diabetes and
- some types of cancers ( breast, lung, colorectal).
However, more research is being conducted to confirm their effect in many of these areas.
How will the Omega and fatty acids test help me?
This test will tell you if your body has built up to your beneficial target levels of omegas with the right balance of specific omegas and fatty acids to give you the desired health benefits noted above. While some individuals reach their healthy blood omega-3 targets with ease, others do not on a comparable diet and similar omega dose. This is based on each individual. Your metabolism, genes, environment, health, and the medicines you take will influence your ability to digest and absorb omegas to achieve your healthy blood target. For example, it will tell you if are have too much DHA and not enough EPA, or vice versa. Are your levels of Omega-6’s too high compared to 3’s? This type of information will give you direction to make the right choices and adjustments (more, less, or none) to your diet and or supplements based on evidence of your own test rather than relying on general advice.
Research evidence shows:
- It is not the amount of omega 3 supplements you take but whether your blood and tissue levels got to the healthy therapeutic target range in your blood and tissues to give you the benefits.
- Omega-3 fats provide a protective role in heart health, and shows promise in brain health, inflammatory diseases, and reducing risk of diseases such as diabetes and some cancers (See more, below)
- The target levels you aim for may be different for different health conditions
Thirsty to learn more about Omegas? Read on!
What about Omega 6’s?
Although 6’s are essential too, they are easy to make up and rarely in short supply in the diet. The high omega-6 western diet tips its balance with omega-3, competing and knocking off their absorption. Excess levels of 6’s promote cellular inflammation and also promote clotting.
Does this mean we should not have omega-6’s?
Not at all. It is all about BALANCE. Inflammation and clotting are important and necessary functions of health to promote healing and prevent loss of blood by proper clotting when we are injured. It is when we lose our balance that we run into trouble. Since omega-6’s are plentiful in the diet and omega-3’s less so, we have to make a conscious effort to keep a balance between these two families.
What are some of the different omega-3’s and 6’s I should be familiar with?
Omega-3: These are essential fatty acids. The key omega-3 fatty acids are:
- ALA: Alpha Linolenic acid found in plant sources such as nuts, legumes, flax, canola
- EPA: Eicosapentaenoic (EPA) mostly found in fish, fish oils
- DHA: Docosapentaenoic acids (DHA) found in fish, fish oils, eggs
Our body can make small amount of DHA and EPA (about 5-15% ) from ALA in the body.
Omega-6: Although considered essential fatty acids also, omega-6’s are rarely lacking in the diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are widely present in grains, grain-fed animal meats
- LA: Linoleic acid (LNA) found in plant sources
- AA; Arachadonic acid
How do I know if I have sufficient blood omega-3 levels and if I have an acceptable balance of omega-3’s and omega-6’s?
One sure way is to be tested for blood omega and fatty acid panel. Your test results will guide you in making decisions of what changes if any are needed. It should be tailored to your health and the medicine you are taking with the help of your dietitian and doctor.
Can I have too much or too little of the different omegas?
Yes. You need the right balance of specific omegas to give you the best benefits. For example do you have the right ratio of Omega3:Omega6; do you have optimum levels of EPA and DHA; do you have more of the inflammatory omegas? Again, a qualified health professional withe expertise in this area can provide you with the right guidance.
Do I need an omega supplement?
The first step is knowing your body’s levels of the specific omega 3’s and 6’s. If you are already at your target, you may not need to adjust your diet or supplement. If you are not at your target, it will help you determine what you need, how much of it, and from where you should make it up. Use your diet first to get your quota and then top up with a supplement if needed with the guidance of a qualified health professional.
Can I get Omega fat blood test through my family doctor?
Family doctors usually do not order the Omega test as its cost is not covered by Alberta Health Services.
Where can I get an omega fat blood test in Calgary?
In Calgary, you can book your test with NutriFit Canada that uses reputable medical laboratories specialising in the analysis of this test. We offer holistic evaluation, prepare you for your blood draw in our clinic, and take special care in handling your specimen correctly to avoid degradation. Our Registered dietitian will explain and help you understand your results in a way that you can take proactive action to benefit your health.
What does the Omega fat panel test include?
Your detailed blood test report of your omegas and fats includes:
- Omegas 3, 6, and 9 fats
- Specific levels of your protective Omega-3’s, EPA, DHA, ALA (Alpha-linolenic)
- Total of 28 different fatty acids including LA (linoleic), oleic and many others
- Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) total and the main ones
- Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) total and the main ones
- Saturated fats total (SFA) and the main ones
- Discussion of your test results with our Registered Dietitian