Home Heart Disease NZ Scientists call Doctors to do routine omega 3 tests

NZ Scientists call Doctors to do routine omega 3 tests


Today in this article in the New Zealand Sunday Star Times, New Zealand Scientists (Massey University, Albany) are calling for Doctors to routinely check omega 3 levels in the same way that cholesterol levels are checked. Why? Because the level of omega 3 in cell membranes helps protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

I couldn’t agree more, I would love to have clients able to request an omega 3 test, especially one that measures omega 3 and omega 6 levels / ratio. With this result, clients could take fish oil / eat oily fish to reach ideal blood levels. (Reducing omega 6 in our diet is equally important to achieve ideal omega 3: 6 ratios) At the moment in New Zealand however, neither Labtests or Medlab have this test available. The Massey University laboratory does omega 3 testing – but for for research projects only. Maybe things will change.

How are your Omega 3 levels?

“Scientists are calling for doctors to routinely use a blood-test to check omega-3 levels to help fight diabetes and heart disease. They want the tests to sit alongside cholesterol tests that doctors regularly order.

Professor Bernhard Breier and a team of scientists at Massey University’s Albany campus have been working on research that is the first to show the benefits of omega-3 in protecting against diabetes and heart disease in people who are prone to obesity.

Bernhard, chairman of human nutrition at the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, said a test for omega-3 levels could be performed as simply as a cholesterol test, and the benefits were just as pronounced.

Their studies had shown omega-3 made insulin more effective and therefore improved carbohydrate and fat metabolism. That means people taking the right amount of omega-3 for their body could be less prone to developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, or both. A blood test could work out how much more omega-3 a person might need.

“Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the important parts of the puzzle in our fight against type 2 diabetes.”

Bernhard said the health benefits were well known, but the group wanted to find out how omega-3 worked, and whether there were differences in how it worked when there was a genetic predisposition for obesity.

“We know some people can put on the pounds more easily than others. We investigated how omega-3 worked in different lifestyle conditions,” he said.

The group found omega-3 was not as effective in those genetically predisposed to obesity but that it could still have benefits.

It is not one size fits all for the amount of omega-3 that people need to eat or take. We want to establish how it gives the best dietary protection against disease, and that might vary in age groups or by gender.

Breier said foods rich in omega-3 included oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, or plant sources like flax seed, canola, soy bean oil and walnuts.

He said most people could get the right amount of omega-3 from a healthy diet. “It is a bit of a guessing game. Do I like salmon? And if I like it, I eat it a lot, and if I don’t, well it’s a bit difficult. And how much do I need anyway? Is it enough if I take one fish oil tablet a day, or should I take four?”

A test would solve that issue, he said. “We have the ability to change the different body-building blocks by eating omega-3 rich foods.”

Study related to the article:

Metabolic responses to high-fat diets rich in n-3 or n-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in mice selected for either high body weight or leanness explain different health outcomes. (Nutrition & Metabolism, online 2011 August 11)


  1. Good call. It staggers me as well how rarely people have their homocysteine levels measured as a risk factor for plaque formation . 13% of the population are deficient in an enzyme that converts homocysteine into something innocuous. Unlike cholesterol (except Familial Hypercholesteremia) hyperhomocysteinemia is a real issue. Just had mine checked and it’s not that flash! It’s easily treated by upping folate and B12 levels which I guess is why there’s so little interest in checking the levels – because there’s no money in dishing out non-patentable nutritional supplements.

  2. Nice article Julianne.

    Do you know (or do any readers know) of anyone that does cholesterol particle size in NZ? I have people ask me about their high LDL count and its one thing for me to say that it is not important because we don’t know the particle size ratio, and another thing for me to have a test result to prove it.
    Both LabTests and Diagnostic MedLab said “what is particle size….?” when I asked about it.



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