When we consume products with omega-3 fatty acids, these essential nutrients are incorporated into cell membranes in all tissues of our body. The omega-3s in the form of EPA and DHA, in particular, are important fatty acids and help keep our vital organs like the heart, liver, brain, and eyes healthy.
But how can we know if we get enough EPA and DHA into our cells? A parameter related to health called the Omega-3 Index is the golden standard way of measuring exactly that.
What is the Omega-3 Index?
The Omega-3 Index represents a person’s or a pet's overall EPA and DHA status. It's in the form of a percentage number, and you find it by dividing the number of EPA and DHA on the total fatty acids content in the red blood cell membranes. The EPA/DHA content of red blood cell membranes mirrors the overall body tissue EPA/DHA levels and can therefore be given as a general Omega-3 index for the person or pet.
In humans, the Omega-3 Index indicates a body’s health status, since there has been established a link between the Omega-3 Index and heart health, brain health, vision and life expectancy.
An Omega-3 Index below 8% is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, while an Omega-3 Index above 8% reduces the risk for heart disease. The target zone would be above 8% for optimal cognitive function, cardiovascular and immune systems, as well as for muscles and bones.
What about the Omega-3 Index for pets?
The Omega-3 Index is calculated in the pets' blood the same way as for humans. For dogs and cats, there is so far not enough data to advise exactly which Omega-3 Index number would be optimal for health.
But it is evident that many pets are very low in Omega-3 Index, and it is, therefore, natural to assume an increase for most pets would contribute positively to their health.
Why is the Omega-3 Index important for pets?
This diagnostic tool provides a useful indication of a pet’s long-term intake of health bringing omega-3s. Measuring the level of omega-3s in pets' bodies can help dog and cat owners choose a diet that contains the right amount of these nutrients.
Having your pets tested to determine the appropriate dose of EPA and DHA for maintaining an optimal Omega-3 Index will be beneficial for keeping a healthy heart, brain, vision, joints, and skin, etc.
How can you increase your pet’s Omega-3 Index?
The best way to increase your pet’s Omega-3 Index is to give them pet food that contains marine omega-3s EPA and DHA, either as a complete food or as an added supplement to their diet.
An increased level of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA can be achieved by the inclusion of krill meal, a marine source of omega-3, in dog food.
Antarctic krill is a shrimp-like crustacean harvested in the Southern Ocean. Krill can be used as an ingredient in pet food formulations. It is also a sustainable and pure alternative to fish oil and is characterized by omega-3 phospholipids, the antioxidant astaxanthin, natural choline, and marine proteins.
Proven benefits of a higher Omega-3 Index for pets
The benefits of an increased Omega-3 Index were shown after giving pet food with krill to Alaskan Huskies for 6 weeks. 10 dogs received a diet with 8% krill inclusion, while 10 dogs in the control group received a diet with fish oil.
After 6 weeks, the results showed that the dogs on a diet with krill had their Omega-3 Index increased by 62%. Dogs in the control group had a lower increase (21%).
Therefore, an increased level of EPA and DHA from krill can provide an increase in the Omega-3 Index which contributes to many health benefits for pets, including supporting their heart, liver, joint health, immune system, skin health, etc.