Earlier this year, I wrote about the first stage of an experiment we were taking part in with Seven Seas. This involved having our bloods analysed to find out the fatty acid composition, with particular emphasis on the omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) within the body’s red blood cells. We got some really interesting results back – in particular, our Omega-3 Index results indicated that we were a ’cause for concern’ because we weren’t getting anywhere near as much omega-3 as we should be.
So, over the last four (ish) months, we’ve been taking two Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil Maximum Strength Capsules at breakfast. As these are a natural source of omega-3 fish oil, and being rich in Vitamins D & E, the experiment would scientifically test whether we could increase our omega-3 and change our fatty acid composition through supplements.
As someone who has never taken supplements, I was a little sceptical as to whether they would work. Do supplements actually do anything, or is it just an expensive placebo? Either way, you don’t normally get to find out – however, the fact that my blood was being analysed before and after supplementation would give concrete evidence of how good they were for me.
First up, let’s address the elephant in the room. What started as an experiment involving both the missus and I quickly became just me on my tod. There was a good reason though – the missus became pregnant (not that I’m calling her an elephant). As such, she was advised to stop taking the supplements as they are cod liver oil based and contain the retinol form of vitamin A. Truth be told, I think she was just looking for an excuse as she knew I was going to win in our mini increasing omega-3 competition!
Back in August, after 3.5 months of taking the supplements, I sent my blood off to Stirling University so that it could be analysed. To do this, I used an omega-3 testing kit which was made up of a lancet, sample card and envelope. I simply needed to prick my middle finger with the lancet, dab my blood onto two circles on the sample card, let it dry, secure in the envelope, send it off and wait.
Fast forward a few weeks and I received my results from the test. Just like last time, this gave me a full breakdown of the fatty acid composition in my blood in regards to saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (Omega 3s and Omega 6s). It also included my Lands Index results and the Omega-3 Index results. To say I was surprised with the results was an understatement…
Omega-3 Index Results
Let’s first start with the Omega-3 Index. As a refresher, this measures omega-3 levels in the body and gives an indication of the omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in the body’s red blood cells. A higher intake of EPA and DHA – and so a greater content in red blood cells – is linked with better health, including heart health. An omega-3 index of 4 or below is considered a cause for concern, while an index of 8 or above would be a good sign.
My results from the first test gave me an omega-3 index of 4.0 – in other words, I’m a cause for concern! But has taking Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil Maximum Strength Capsules improved that? Yes, yes it has – in fact, it’s a resounding yes. Professor Philip Calder – Professor of Nutritional Immunology within Medicine at the University of Southampton – gave his thoughts on my results:
“Dave’s sample of 27/4/17 gave an omega-3 index of 4.0. This is right on the threshold for concern and indicated that he was not eating anywhere near enough EPA and DHA. Dave’s sample of 14/8/17 – taken after almost four months of daily use of an omega-3 supplement – gave an omega-3 index of 7.3 which is a remarkable improvement.
Using the supplement has taken Dave’s index out of the range that indicates cause for concern and the improvement in Dave’s omega-3 index brings it much closer to the desired value of 8, which is associated with improved heart health. A wonderful result!”
The Lands Index Results
Next up is the Lands Index which measures the level of omega-3 versus the level of omega-6 in the whole blood sample. After the first blood test, my Land’s Index was down at a paltry 25% meaning I was significantly below the optimal range of 70%. So, did the Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil Maximum Strength Capsules do any good? Again, yes they did. Over to Seven Seas consultant dietician, Helen Bond, for some thoughts:
“Dave’s Lands Index result has nearly doubled, which will greatly benefit his heart and cardiovascular health. Supplementation of omega-3 rich Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil has pushed up Dave’s EPA and DHA omega-3 fat intake and blood levels, and in turn this has improved his omega-6:omega-3 ratio.”
Fatty Acid Composition Of Blood
The lab also measured the 25+ fatty acids in the red blood cell membrane of my sample, which can then be grouped into saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, n-6 polyunsaturated fats, n-3 polyunsaturated fats and dimethyl acetals. Saturated fats are found in fatty cuts of meat and processed meat, full fat dairy and cream, palm and coconut oil and baked goods such as cakes, pastries and biscuits.
Monounsaturated fats have cholesterol lowering properties, so higher blood levels of monounsaturated fat (primarily oleic acid) is suggested to be better, e.g. from rapeseed and olive oil, avocados, avocado oil, peanuts and peanut butter. Polyunsaturated fats – which can be divided into omega-3s and omega-6s – are essential fats. They need to be obtained from our food and are important for heart health, but omega-3 are also beneficial for healthy eyes, brain function and reducing inflammation in the body. Again, Seven Seas consultant dietician, Helen Bond, gave her thoughts:
“It’s difficult to give strong science-based UK recommendations for target ranges for what Dave should be aiming for in terms of fatty acid composition of the blood. However, OmegaQuant LLC state the following reference ranges; saturated fats (29.52-37.74%), monounsaturated fats (15.65-32.26%), n-6 polyunsaturated fats (26.35-45.15%) and n-3 polyunsaturated fats (2.92-13.29%), which Dave is now within the reference range for each.
What we can say is that it is positive news as his saturated fat levels have gone down from 38.91% to 36.26%. Higher levels of saturated fat, particularly a saturated fat called palmitic acid in the diet (or in the blood for that matter) have been linked with high levels of total and LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease.”
This experiment has genuinely been really interesting and the results have surprised me. My Omega-3 Index has gone from being a cause for concern at 4.0 up to 7.3 – only marginally off the threshold for the greatest heart health benefits of 8.0+. Similarly, my Lands Index has increased from 25% to 41% – although not at the 50%+ stage just yet, the increased EPA and DHA has improved my omega-6:omega-3 ratio. Finally, the ‘bad’ saturated fat in the fatty acid composition in my blood has dropped by 2.5%. All of this is positive and a direct result of supplementation.
It’s not everyday that you get to have your bloods analysed to this degree and see the impact of supplements on your body. As someone who has never taken supplements before – partly because I didn’t know if they worked – I’ve been amazed at how the omega-3 capsules have changed my blood composition for the better. Although I can’t actually see or feel an improvement as it’s in my blood, it’s great knowing that I’m healthier, and as a result, there’s a reduced risk of things like heart and cardiovascular disease.
Obviously my body has responded well to the cod liver oil supplementation and this is something I intend to continue. In fact, even though the experiment has ended, I’ve continued to take Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil Maximum Strength Capsules. It’s obvious that I don’t get enough omega-3, so at least supplements help fill this void – without them, I could easily return to my original Omega-3 Index score of 4.0.
There’s also dietary considerations too when it comes to omega-3 fats. Oily fish is rarely on our menu, so we should be looking to eat at least one portion of oily fish – salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna, kippers etc – each week. There’s also plant-based omega-3 fats (alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)) found in chia seeds, linseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, flaxseed and rapeseed oil which would be a welcome addition to my diet and provide other nutrients beneficial to overall health and wellbeing.
All in all, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this experiment, the results have been impressive and it’s given me a lot to think about in regards to my omega-3 intake. Have you ever had your blood analysed in this way? Do you think you get enough omega-3? Do you take any kind of supplements? Let me know below!