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Fatty Acid Blood Tests Help Assess Risk for Heart Disease

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 by: Teri Lee Gruss
Tags: fatty acids, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Back in 2004 two fatty acid researchers, William Harris PhD and Clemens von Schacky M.D., developed a lab test designed to measure the amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids in blood. They call this blood test the omega-3 index.

The omega-3 index is designed to measure the percentage of omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in blood. Dr. Harris says that "Low intakes or blood levels of EPA and DHA are independently associated with increased risk of death from coronary heart disease".

According to Harris an "Omega-3 Index of 8-10% reduces a person's relative risk of death from coronary heart disease by 40 percent, and from sudden cardiac death by 90 percent. An index of 4-8% indicates an intermediate risk, and levels from 0-4% a high risk."

The Harris/Schacky findings were published in the medical journal Preventative Medicine (July 2004). Dr. Harris recently published continued research findings in the journal Nutritional Pharmacology (March 2007).

The medical community has long known that most Americans consume a lot more omega-6 fatty acids than they do omega-3 fatty acids. This causes a cellular imbalance in what is called the omega-6: omega-3 ratio. When this ratio is too high in omega-6 fatty acids it carries with it an increased risk for inflammation and an increased risk for heart disease.

The Institute of Medicine has estimated that the average American has an omega-6: omega-3 fatty acid ratio of about 10:1. People that eat a diet high in manufactured and fast foods may well have a much higher and more dangerous omega-6: omega-3 ratio.

Loren Cordain PhD, well known researcher and author of the Paleo Diet has estimated that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet of early humans was 1:1. According to Cordain, "many researchers have shown that the ideal ratio for cardiovascular disease prevention and overall health should be below 4:1".

Foods high in omega-6 linoleic fatty acids include corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower and sunflower oil. Black currant, borage and primrose oil are rich sources of gamma linoleic acid. Foods high in omega-3 linolenic acid include fatty fish and fish oils. Alpha linolenic acid is found in flax seed oil, however, it is generally accepted that fish and fish oils are our best sources for omega three fatty acids.

The medical establishment knows that this fatty acid ratio imbalance increases our risk for heart disease. In 2002, the American Heart Association journal Circulation published the following study, Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease which concluded that "A growing body of evidence from recent epidemiological studies indicates that linolenic acid is associated with a lower risk of MI and fatal ischemic". Authors of the study added that "omega-3 fatty acids affect cardiac function (including antiarrhythmic effects), hemodynamics (cardiac mechanics), and arterial endothelial function".

So why aren't doctors utilizing new blood tests, like the omega-3 index to reduce the risks and incidence of heart disease?

While the medical establishment remains quagmired in an obsession with cholesterol as a risk for heart disease aren't they missing an important and naturally modifiable risk factor by ignoring a knowledge of the fatty acid status of their patients?

Metametrix Clinical Laboratory offers a test called the BLOODSPOT™ FATTY ACID PROFILE (Link to a sample report below). The test is described by Metametrix as an "easy-to-use test that measures key omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and calculates key indicators to establish your optimal balance. Trans fatty acids - the "bad" oils in processed foods - are also measured".

The BLOODSPOT™ FATTY ACID PROFILE test measures Arachidonic Acid (AA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), AA/EPA Ratio and the Index of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA + DHA%).

Metametrix Labs recommends the fatty acid profile test for the following reasons. From their website:

* Inflammatory balance
Improper fatty acid intake affects the balance of anti- and pro-inflammatory eicosanoids, increasing health risks.

* Statins
Among the top five drugs prescribed last year, statins have been shown to unfavorably alter this inflammatory balance.

* Increased free radical production
Consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) without increasing antioxidant intake will cause increased production of free radicals.

* Immune suppression Excessive consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can suppress immune function, leading to infections and poor wound healing.

You can ask your doctor to order the test for you. Or you can order it yourself through DirectLabs.

According to William Harris, Ph.D. "We recommend the Omega-3 Index for anyone at increased risk for coronary heart disease. When you know your Omega-3 Index, you can implement dietary and lifestyle changes to significantly lower your risk for sudden cardiac death."

Harris adds, "We are designed to thrive on a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, but most Americans eat far too little fish to reap any benefits from the omega-3 oils. Even those who regularly eat fish or take fish oil supplements may not be getting enough for their unique, individual needs".

The Bloodspot™ Fatty Acid Profile gives us a useful tool to use to significantly and naturally reduce our risks for the most common cause of death in the U.S., heart disease, without pharmaceutical drugs.

Shouldn't our doctors and insurance companies familiarize themselves with fatty acid blood tests, the research behind them and the potential health benefit that could be realized by utilizing them?

Sources:

Sample report of the BLOODSPOT™ FATTY ACID PROFILE:
(http://www.metametrix.com/DirectoryOfService...)

Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease
Penny M. Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD; William S. Harris, PhD; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH, for the Nutrition Committee:
(http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full...) Circulation. 2002;106:2747.

(www.saintlukeshealthsystem.org)

The Paleo Diet Newsletter, Loren Cordain, PhD, 2/1/2008, Relevant Science, Omega 3 index as a sudden cardiac death risk factor

(http://www.metametrix.com/content/AboutMetam...) and
(http://www.directlabs.com/PDFfiles/BloodSpot...)

Link to a power point presentation by Dr. Harris on omega-3 fatty acids and the omega-3 index:
(http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/forum/2...)

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=Art...)

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=Art...)

About the author

Teri Lee Gruss, MS Human Nutrition

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