Researchers develop new blood test for measuring levels of critical omega-3 fatty acids

Oct. 19, 2023
Omega watch.

Researchers at McMaster and the University of Guelph have discovered a convenient new way to track levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the bloodstream, making it much easier to access information that is critical to cardiovascular and cognitive health, but which has previously been challenging to gather. 

While the human body can generate most of the fats it needs, it cannot produce adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids and must obtain them from dietary sources. 

Two key omega-3 fatty acids, called EPA (eicosatetraenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), can be derived only from certain sources, such as fish, seafood, enriched foods, and supplements, but measuring how much gets into the blood has been both difficult and invasive. 

In addition to increasing the risk of cardiovascular events, a lack of omega-3 fatty acids has also been associated with inflammation and other health conditions, including cognitive impairment, depression, fetal neurodevelopment, and premature birth. 

The newly discovered biomarkers of the Omega-3 Index (O3I) will make it easier for researchers to study omega-3 fatty acid nutrition in support of population health, including vulnerable groups.  

The study has been published in the Journal of Lipid Research and co-authored by Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and David Mutch, a professor of human health and nutrition at the University of Guelph. 

Participants in the study were given between 3 and 5 grams of fish oil, EPA or DHA supplements per day. Researchers performed lipid profiling to isolate specific O31 biomarkers from among hundreds of detectable circulating lipids. 

McMaster release