Dr. Lee, the Healthy Professor

Omega 3 Index & Women.

Omega 3Although I have previously written about the values of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, this item was prompted by the appearance of 3 new articles that crossed my desk this week.

Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA are considered essential. Our body doesn't make them but we do need them from our diet. Omega 3 has become very popular among health care professionals and supplement advocates.

The EPA / DHA versions of Omega 3 are “animal” based and required by humans. The vegetable version, Alpha-linolenic–acid (ALA), has to be converted to EPA / DHA after we eat it.  

ALA is found in foods like flax seed and walnut oil. Our conversion rate is very poor - less than 10% range. 1

Low long chain omega-3 fatty acid status in middle-aged women

Gellert, Sandra, et.al. PLEFA Journal , 2017.01.009

The low LC n-3 PUFA status in middle-aged German women (40–60 years) is related to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and possibly other diseases and should therefore be improved.

Although the benefits of Omega 3 intake have been well established, a German study reported that 63% of middle aged German women have low omega 3 and show high risk for heart disease.

The study used a measure known as the “Omega 3 Index” which is the % concentration in red blood cells.

  • very low = less than 4%
  • low = 4 to 6%
  • moderate = 6 to 8%
  • high = over 8%. 

The study focused on 471 women ages 40-60 (from an original cohort study of 2367). The average Omega 3 Index score was 5.49%.

The results showed 97% had scores below the 8% value, 63% were rated as “low” risk (scores between 4 - 6%) and 9% were at the greatest risk with scores below 4%.

Dietary reference intakes (DRI) by several expert scientific organizations fall in the range of 250-500 mg/ day for EPA and DHA. But experienced practitioners recommend twice those levels.

Using the brand I have used for 40 years would mean 6 capsules/day. It is disturbing that in spite of knowledge and popularity of this nutrient there appears to be wide spread under consumption.



1. Conversion Efficiency of ALA to DHA in humans. A discussion of the metabolic pathway by which dietary ALA can be converted by a series of sequential desaturation (D) and elongation (E) reactions into EPA and then DHA

2. Two-thirds of middle-aged German women have low omega-3: Increased risk of heart disease - More than 70% of middle-aged women are at an increased risk of heart disease risk because of low omega-3 status, says a new German population study that recommends nearly all should increase intake.


Dr. L. Lee Coyne

Recommended Products

Performance Sports Drink

OmegaGuard - Omega-3 fatty acids.