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Diabetes Testing

Testing Omega 3

If we can easily test our blood glucose and cholesterol levels, why can’t we test the level of omega 3 fatty acids in our blood? Nothing — not cholesterol or even C-reactive protein levels — is better at predicting sudden cardiac death, which still causes about 60 percent of cardiac disease death in the United States, according to an analysis by Centers for Disease Control researchers.

For years this lack of an omega 3 blood test puzzled me. No more. It has finally arrived.

The HS-Omega-3 Index uses a standardized methodology to measure the percentage of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in red blood cells. It also measures the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6.

Some cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and sardines have a lot of this healthy omega 3 fat. I follow the standard recommendation to eat one of these fish at least twice a week. I supplement my fish with krill oil capsules for even more omega 3.

Americans generally have low levels of omega 3 — and those of us with diabetes tend to be lower still. A study of 163 adults in Kansas City, Missouri, who weren’t taking fish oil supplements found that their red blood cells average 4.9 percent EPA plus DHA.

Four factors significantly and independently influenced how much EPA and DHA they had in their systems: fish servings, age, BMI, and diabetes, the study concluded. “The index increased by 0.24 units with each additional monthly serving of tuna or non-fried fish, and by 0.5 units for each additional decade in age. The Index was 1.13% units lower in subjects with diabetes and decreased by 0.3% units with each 3-unit increase in BMI.”

For 17 years researchers tracked 22,071 doctors in the Physician’s Health Study. Sudden death was the first sign that 94 of these doctors had heart disease. Researchers divided them into four equal-sized groups known as quartiles based on how much omega 3 was in their blood. Those in the highest quartile had an 81 percent lower risk of sudden death.

Based on these and other studies, the scientists who developed the new HS-Omega-3 Index say that it should be between 8 percent and 11 percent. In this range “cardiovascular disease, specifically sudden cardiac death, is rare.”

An American and a German scientist teamed up to develop the new test. William Harris, Ph.D., is the director of metabolism and nutrition research at Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Professor Clemens von Schacky, M.D., is the head of Preventive Cardiology of the University of Munich. The letters “HS” in HS-Omega-3 Index stand for both the initials of their family names and for high sensitivity.

Both of them have good websites with lots of information about the test. OmegaQuant Analytics is in Sioux Falls, and Omegametrix GmbH is in Germany.

But I ordered my test from GeneSmart instead because their posted price was less, $129.95. I even dickered over it, getting a further $10 off for a net price of $119.95.

That’s not all. By using this code “GSCENTRAL10” with your order you can get the same $119.95 price that I got. But only until January 31.

This is a fasting test. It uses a 2 ml blood sample that you let dry and send off to the lab, just as we do with home A1C and vitamin D tests.

In a follow-up report I’ll let you know the results of my HS-Omega-3 Index. Even though my level of omega 3 is high, my concern is that my ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids is out of balance from the meat that I have been eating.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Bill Harris at

    Dear David

    One of your writers asked about getting the test through their physician. This is easy to do by having the health care provider set up an account at OmegaQuant. In this situation, the test will probably cost the patient less than if s/he bought it from our website, and s/he will also get the advantage of a personal interpretation of the results from the provider.

    I should note that several companies offer omega-3 tests, but we (and others we wholesale to) are the only ones offering the trademarked HS-Omega-3 Index test. This is the test that is being used at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, and the one that has been used in major national research studies, including one recently published in JAMA (Jan 20, 2010; Association of Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels with Telomeric Aging in Patients with Coronary Heart Disease. Pages 250-257.) It was also used in over 25 other research studies, and has been featured in US News & World Report and in the Wall Street Journal.

    William S. Harris, PhD

    • David Mendosa at

      Dear Dr. Harris,

      Thank you so much for you useful information.

      Best regards,


  • Doug Bibus at

    HI David,

    Very sorry that your kit has not been sent out yet. We have had a HUGE response to our offer (>1000) and are awaiting more kits. There has been a back order on the blood spot kits that has prevented up from getting kits out. I hope to have these kits in this week and out next week. Again my apologies for the wait as we smooth out the speed bumps. We have ended our free offer but are offering the test for $69.99 until our full site is up and running.

    best regards
    Doug Bibus

    Douglas Bibus, PhD

  • David Mendosa at

    By the way, you can get a discount on the Gene Smart test if you order it by the end of the month, as I wrote in the article. That could be the best starting point for you.


  • David Mendosa at

    I held off on sending in the GeneSmart test while waiting for another test. That one was promised as free, but it never arrived. Others told me that they had the same experience. But a few days ago I did send in the GeneSmart test, and I expect to have it back next week.

    I can hardly wait to see the results. They should be pretty good because of my diet. I will write about the test and will separately write about how to achieve a good omeg3 to omega 6 ratio. But I can say in a nutshell that we have to work on both sides of the equation — we have to reduce the omega 6 (mainly by reducing the polyunsaturated oils we use, including soybean, cottonseed, and corn oils as well as cutting back on nuts and especially peanuts and peanut butter) and we have to increase the long-chain omega 3 from cold-water fish and fish or krill oil.

    More later!

    Best regards,


  • Leaking Ink at


    If you don’t mind responding, I’m curious to know how your Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratios came out. What will keep mine in a good ratio?