February 2, 2017


Director's Letter 
Carole Baggerly 
Director, GrassrootsHealth 

You have been asking to expand D*action to other nutrients - so here we go! We will be adding an Omega-3 Nutrient Field Trial to our project with D*action early April, 2017. We need a measurement of the omega levels that is useful to health outcomes and we have chosen to use an Omega-3 Index test. With this  measurement as well as the vitamin D serum levels, we can help you find out exactly what's working for you, what combinations and levels of these nutrients.  And, of course, we will be publishing peer-reviewed research on the health outcomes of omega-3 and on the combination of vitamin D and omega-3.

Of special interest also is that we will be attending to the outline laid out by Dr. Robert Heaney about how to do nutrient trials.  A key item in his outline is that the "Co-nutrient status must be optimized in order to ensure that the test nutrient is the only nutrition-related, limiting factor in the response." At this point, GrassrootsHealth has the ONLY cohort which might say that the co-nutrient of vitamin D could be 'maximized', i.e., be in the 40-60 ng/ml range. As omega-3 levels are raised, most of our participants have optimized D levels - so we can accurately assess how much effect omega-3 has on health outcomes. More to come! 

Some of our current scientist panel members are already experts in omega-3 fatty acids, but we will be reaching out to more researchers specifically focused on omega-3 research to add to the panel. We will continue to base our work on research- moving it into practice - in conjunction with the research community.

Going forward you should expect more research information about omega-3 on our web site, a group of scientists that are the experts, seminars, other literature for you. Education is a key part of GrassrootsHealth. It is what allows our participants to make informed choices about what nutrients to take, how much, and what to expect.

Many thanks to our partner, Organic & Natural Health Association, who will be helping sponsor this effort along with our 'crowdfunding' approach.  You will be able to get both omega-3 index tests and vitamin D tests at reduced rates to aid your participation.  

We moved in this direction due to the feedback we received from YOU! Thank you for continuing to support GrassrootsHealth and its grassroots efforts to use nutrients to improve health - and to bring this research into practice. 
Carole Baggerly 
Director, GrassrootsHealth 
A Public Health Promotion & Research Organization 
Moving Research into Practice NOW!
What is Omega-3 Testing?

The omega-3 index is a test that analyzes the total amount of fatty acids in the red blood cell membranes and is reported as the percentage of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA + DHA) in that total.

There are five types of fatty acids found in red blood cells:
  1. Saturated fatty acids
  2. Monounsaturated fatty acids
  3. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
  4. Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids
  5. Trans fats
Significant amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 cannot be produced by the human body, they need to come from food or supplements, and may be considered essential fatty acids. 
What is the recommended level?
A typical Omega-3 Index level in the US is 4-5%. In Japan, where there is a much lower incidence rate of heart disease and a greater consumption of fish, the average level is 9-10%.

Many studies have found a correlation between a higher index and a lower risk of sudden cardiac death, with a level above 8% associated with the lowest risk.

Other reported health benefits of long chain omega-3s include reduced inflammation, reduced incidence of asthma in children, lower blood pressure, important for normal fetal development, improving joint discomfort and there are indications that it might improve inflammatory bowel disease, ADHD, and dementia. 

What are omega-3s?

There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:
  1. ALA - alpha-linolenic acid 
  2. EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid
  3. DHA - docosahexaenoic acid
Coming from a variety of plant sources, ALA is the most common omega-3 in the US diet, but remains inactive until it is converted to EPA. However, at the most only a few percent is converted, the rest is used for energy (like other fats) or is stored. 

DHA and EPA primarily come from fish and shellfish and are the most commonly referenced omega-3s. This is because they are the types of omega-3s that seem to have health benefits. DHA is a dominant structural constituent in the central nervous system and is essential for brain development and neurological function. EPA modulates inflammation. Almost all marine-based omega-3 sources have both EPA and DHA, but with supplements you see very different percentages of EPA and DHA.

Sources of Omega-3 in Food

These fish contain high amounts of omega-3s
  • salmon
  • herring
  • bluefin tuna
  • mackerel
  • sardines in oil
  • anchovy in oil

These fish contain moderate amounts of omega-3s
  • swordfish
  • rainbow trout
  • sea bass
  • king crab
  • walleye
  • tuna in water
  • flatfish
  • oysters
  • shrimp

These fish contain lower amounts of omega-3s
  • halibut
  • northern lobster
  • clams
  • scallop
  • haddock
  • cod
  • mahi-mahi
  • catfish

A list of the content of omega-3s in different fish can be found here.

Omega-3s are also found in flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans and tofu, and spinach.


There are many supplements on the market that supply omega-3s in different amounts and ratios of EPA/DHA. Fish oil, krill oil, MCT oil, etc... Liquid, capsule, and much like vitamin D, simply taking an omega-3 supplement does not guarantee that you have an optimal level. 

If you would like to increase your omega-3 index after you test your omega-3 level, you can use this calculator to determine how much to add.

I'm Ready - When? Where? How much?

GrassrootsHealth will be implementing the Omega-3 project in early April.  
The process is identical to the D*action project: Fill in a questionnaire (a few added Q's for the omegas), do blood spot tests (one for D, one for omega-3), mail them in, and in 7-10 days after we receive the cards you will receive notification via email that your results are ready. There will be ongoing educational emails and other information for you.

Want to be notified immediately when available?  Please email us and ask to be placed on the early participant list.

     Omega-3 and You

In December 2016 over 800 of you answered a survey on omega-3s. Here are some of the results:
  • 81% take an omega-3 supplement
  • The top health benefits listed as reasons for those taking a supplement are heart health, brain health, bone/joint health and eye health.
  • 57% take fish oil, 41% krill oil, 11% cod liver oil and 11% other. In the other category were mostly plant-based omega-3s.
  • Quality, purity and the percentage EPA/DHA are the three top factors in your choice of supplement.
  • 43% of you take 1000-1500 mg/day, while only 9% take 3000 mg/day.
  • 90% of you have NOT done an Omega-3 Index test.
Thank you for participating in D*action and the time you took in answering our survey.

Enroll Today

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Your donation today will allow GrassrootsHealth to run special incentive programs to increase D*action participation in March.

More participation
More research
More public action

Sponsors of $1000 or more will receive special mention.

The Omega-3 Index
Axel F. Sigurdsson, MD
December 2016

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Blood Levels
HR Superko et al.
November 2013

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
University of Maryland Medical Center
Article on benefits

What are the Real Differences Between EPA and DHA?
Dr. Barry Sears
Zone Lab
March 2012

EPA DHA Content in Commonly Consumed Fish
Chart of values

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