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episode #276

Interview with Dr. Bill Harris: Benefits of Omega 3’s, Are Omega 6’s that Bad? and Best Way to Get Omega 3’s in Your Diet!

August 7, 2023 in Podcast


This week I interviewed Dr. Bill Harris. Dr. Harris is the author of more than 300 scientific papers on fatty acids and health. He is a professor in the Department of Medicine in the Samford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, the co-inventor of the Omega-3 Index, and the founder of OmegaQuant Analytics.

In this episode, we discuss how omega 3's can lower blood triglycerides along with:
  • His reason behind inventing the Omega 3 Index
  • Benefits of Omega 3's
  • Are Omega 6's really bad for us?
  • Best Ways to Obtain Omega 3's in Your Diet
and much much more!

Brian (0s):

Coming up on the GET, LEAN Eat Clean Podcast.

Bill (3s):

When we've done studies looking at our high, relatively high blood levels of linoleic acid harmful relative to lower levels, which would be the idea that, you know, you're eating too much, therefore high levels of Omega six and the blood should be a problem, should be associated with increased risk for disease, whatever. And when we looked at cardiovascular disease risk, and this is looking at populations that looking at, you know, several thousand people's blood levels of Omega, six of linoleic acid. And then we, we take these several thousand people whose blood levels we've measured, and we rank them from the, you know, the lowest levels to the highest levels.

Bill (51s):

And then we look and see over 15, 20 years who develops heart disease, who develops diabetes. There's two different diseases that we've looked at lately, And. what we found was that the people who have the highest levels of linoleic acid in their blood are the least likely to develop heart disease or diabetes.

Brian (1m 14s):

Hello, and welcome to the Get Lean Eat Clean podcast, m Brian, Gryn and I here to give you actionable tips to get your body back to what it once was, five, 10, even 15 years ago. Each week I'll give you an in depth interview with a health expert from around the world to cut through the fluff and get you long term sustainable results. This week I interviewed Dr. Bill Harris. Dr. Harris is the author of more than 300 scientific papers on fatty acids and health. He's a professor in the Department of Medicine in the Samford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, the co-inventor of the Omega three Index and the founder of Omega Quaint Analytics. We discussed how Omega threes can lower blood triglycerides, his reasoning behind inventing the Omega three Index Benefits of Omega threes Are Omega sixes, really bad for us, and Best Ways to Obtain Omega threes in our diet and much, much more.

Brian (2m 8s):

Really enjoyed my Interview with Dr Bill Harris. I know you will too. Thanks so much for listening and enjoy the show. All, right Welcome to the Get Lean Eat Clean podcast. My name is Brian Bryn and I have Dr. Bill Harris on Welcome to the show.

Bill (2m 23s):

Hey, Brian, thanks to be on.

Brian (2m 25s):

Yeah, thanks for coming on. And we're gonna get all into Omega threes we're and sort of your research behind them, but maybe give the audience a little bit of background of, you know, what you've been up to for the last 20, 30 years.

Bill (2m 39s):


Brian (2m 40s):

40 years. Okay.

Bill (2m 42s):

Yeah. Yeah. I, I, I, I did a PhD in nutrition, got very interested in nutrition in the 1970s, and got my degree from Minnesota and then went to work in Oregon on a, on a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Bill Connor. And he, he was very interested in the effects of different kind of dietary fats on cholesterol levels. And so he assigned me to do a study on what's the effect of salmon oil on blood cholesterol. And it was my first experience with Omega three, well, I didn't, I'm not even sure I knew much, even knew the term Omega three in those days.

Bill (3m 27s):

It was salmon oil. Yeah. That was the point. And we, excuse me, really got on the Omega three bandwagon quite early. And so first paper was 1980 and the, the Danish investigators had figured out the whole Eskimo story in the late seventies that Omega three was tied to reduced risk for heart disease. and we were kind of getting on that train just after they did. And the Omega three story has just been building for the last 40 years. It's been building, it's still getting, it's still growing. And so it's been a fun ride. I probably, the first half of my career was more studying, we'll call interventional studies where we give fish oil, give Omega three and see what it does mostly to blood lipid levels.

Bill (4m 20s):

Second half has been more of the, what we'll call epidemiology or population stuff, where after coming up with the Omega three Index test, which we'll talk about, we, I got real interested in how much information the Omega three level gives us for a person's overall health And. you know, is it a predictor of, like, is it a risk factor? Right. So that's what I've been on for last, like 10 or 20 years.

Brian (4m 51s):

And and that's with your company? The Omega Quaint? Is that what it is?

Bill (4m 57s):

Omega Quant.

Brian (4m 58s):

Quant, okay.

Bill (4m 59s):

Yeah. Omega Quant was the lab we founded about 13 years ago to offer blood testing for researchers, for clinicians, for consumers So. they can know what their Omega three level is. 'cause I think it's as important, it's more important than cholesterol in terms of being able to predict important clinical outcomes. So, we wanted to, we thought there needed to be a test So. we came up with one and started a lab to offer it.

Brian (5m 26s):

Very cool. And that's been going for, what, 10 years now?

Bill (5m 30s):

About 12.

Brian (5m 31s):

12 years. Okay. I, I know you've been involved with a lot of studies. What were some of the early studies that sort of made you go down this road? I know you were talking, I've listened to you on a few Podcasts, but regarding reducing triglycerides and, and the effect how Omega threes reduced triglycerides by quite a bit.

Bill (5m 52s):

Right. That was the first, you know, hint that we had, that the Omega threes were doing something unusual. We were originally interested in what they do to cholesterol. And turns out really they don't do anything to blood cholesterol in any meaningful way. They don't really lower L D L cholesterol, the bad cholesterol. They might raise the good cholesterol H D L a little bit, but not, you know, it's, it's not huge by any means, but they do lower blood triglycerides. And that's one of the things we discovered and really made a, a lot of noise about 'cause that was important. But honestly, I don't think that's why Omega three helpful.

Bill (6m 33s):

I th I think the most important thing is probably their effects on, you know, inflammation, chronic inflammation over the lifespan, and maybe their effects on, on maybe making the blood a little thinner, so less likely to clot, making the blood vessels healthier. It is a lot of subtle beneficial things throughout the entire body that all add up to a, a long-term benefit.

Brian (7m 3s):

And maybe explain to the audience a little bit about like E E P A D H A and then also a l a 'cause those are all the three forms of Omega threes,

Bill (7m 13s):

Yeah. Alphabet soup. Here we go. Yeah. So right there are, and maybe even to back up a little further, fatty acid in general fatty acids are com comprised basically 95% of what a Fat is. You think about butter, you think about vegetable oil, those are a hundred percent Fat. And about 95% of that Fat chemically is fatty acids. So those are long chains of carbon atoms between roughly 14 carbon atoms and 22 carbon atoms in a, in a long chain. And they all have bonds between them.

Bill (7m 54s):

Chemistry, some single bonds, some double bonds. If you have two or more double bonds, you've got a polyunsaturated fatty acid. And those are typically what make up most vegetable oils, polyunsaturates and fish oils. And the, the, the two classes of poly, two families of polyunsaturated fatty acids, really Omega six. Omega three. And those names come from the Omega comes from counting, you know, counting back from the end, the last carbon atom to the first double bond. If there's three carbons before the first double bond, it's an Omega minus three.

Bill (8m 38s):

If there's six, it's an Omega minus six. And those two families are separate. But, but they're very much like cousins in a way. The Omega threes have, as you mentioned, really three main players, three main kids in that family. One is a l a, which stands for alpha linolenic acid. It's a relatively short chain. It's 18 carbon instead of 20 or 22 carbons, 18 carbon fatty acid. That's from plants. Most richly, most notably would be in flaxseed oil, chia seed.

Bill (9m 19s):

Those are rich sources. The most common source of a l a in the American diet is soybean oil diet.

Brian (9m 27s):


Bill (9m 29s):

'cause we eat a lot of soybean oil. And a l a is about 7% of the fatty acids are. So that's really where we get it. It's a, an Omega three. It can be with difficulty elongated incr synthesized in the body to E P A, which is one of the two Omega threes from fish so that it can be made into E P A and to D H A. But the conversion is quite small. I mean, that's somewhat controversial. Whether you can get enough Omega three from just eating a l a and people will point to, you know, vegan cultures where they don't eat any fish at all.

Bill (10m 17s):

That don't eat any preformed Omega three and say, look, you know, they're living, they're okay. Well, you know, are they at optimal health or just living, you know, is a good question. I, I think that we do need preformed e P A and D H A for optimal health. And so the, the two we're talking about now, And, what we'll probably talk about more about in this podcast is e P A and d h a and e p A just stands for I cosa Penta IC acid iic, csosa, E I C O. SS A is the, the Greek word for 20. And Penta is five because it's got 20 carbons and five double bonds.

Bill (10m 58s):

And DOA hexa IC acid, D h a do COSA means 22 and HEXA is six. So there's six double bonds. So E P A D H A is the easy way of saying, and those are the ones that come from marine sources. Fish, fish oils.

Brian (11m 15s):

Okay. And I've, there's been a lot of talk like, not only in my, on my podcast, but just in general about the dangers of polyunsaturated fatty acids, mainly in the form of probably Omega six, maybe some in Omega threes. And I'd be, maybe we'll get into that a little bit later. But I had Dr. Chris Knoon, I don't know if you're familiar with him in his work, but you know, health researcher was a physician for a while and you know, talks all about Omega six linoleic acid and how, how it's sort of been, been on the rise with all these, you know, all these oils that are just in everything now. you know, mainly the vegetable oils and seed oils.

Brian (11m 57s):

Yeah. What are your thoughts around that And? you know, have you done any studies around those?

Bill (12m 4s):

Yeah, we have. And my thoughts are different. Yeah. Right. And Chris is, okay, I I, I mean, I, I know people are railing against seed oils, right. Writ large And, you know, I don't have as much of a horse in that race, you know, could be, there's something bad about seed oils, whether it's linoleic acid. And just to be clear, linoleic is the most common, Omega six. It's an essential fatty acid for our diet. And nobody disputes that. The question is how much, and is there too much, I think?

Bill (12m 45s):

Right? I don't think so. But maybe Chris does. He does. He does. Yeah. So it's, it's hard to separate, you know, seed oils, processed oils, linoleic acid, different questions. Sure. When we have done studies looking at blood levels of Omega, of linoleic acid, which is driven by how much you eat since you can't make it, it's kinda like a vitamin. So when we've done studies looking at our high, relatively high blood levels of linoleic acid harmful relative to lower levels, which would be the idea that, you know, you're eating too much, therefore high levels of Omega six in the blood should be a problem, should be associated with increased risk for disease, whatever.

Bill (13m 38s):

And when we looked at cardiovascular disease risk, and this is looking at populations that looking at, you know, several thousand people's blood levels of Omega, six of linoleic acid. And then we, we take these several thousand people whose blood levels we've measured, and we rank them from the, you know, the lowest levels to the highest levels. And then we look and see over 15, 20 years who develops heart disease, who develops diabetes. There's two different diseases that we've looked at lately. And, what we found was that the people who have the highest levels of linoleic acid in their blood are the least likely to develop heart disease or diabetes.

Bill (14m 22s):

Which speaks volumes to me. That, that says, you, you, you gotta do some pretty fancy dancing to then turn around and say that linoleic acids bad for you. If higher levels are associated with less risk for disease. Now we haven't looked at other diseases like maybe dementia, that would be interesting. Other maybe autoimmune diseases that would be interesting. But at least for cardiovascular and diabetes are two biggies. And we're looking at, and actually we've seen the, the same thing in other people's studies for cancer. Either no relationship or lower risk for cancer with Omega six, it, I just can't get on the bandwagon that's saying Omega six is bad just because I can look at, you know, a metabolic chart and see this, you know, Omega threes compete with Omega sixes and okay, fine, they do.

Bill (15m 17s):

Right. That doesn't mean Omega six bad, that's not a logical conclusion. So I I I am more of an advocate for at least maintaining Omega six levels, if not increasing them. 'cause they're kind of going down. I I think the evidence says the more they go down, the worse off we're going to be as a culture. But, so there is a narrative out there that yeah, it's persuasive, you know, I get it. you know, I mean, you can make, you can show the, all these correlations between here's what the disease rate was and this year, and here's how much Omega six was in the diet And. now 50 years later, here's the disease and here's Omega six.

Bill (15m 60s):

And holy cow, you know, it, it's a stretch to, there's a lot of science in there that's skipped, skipped over when we just look at a disease rate and an intake rate and skip everything else. Yeah. And people make long, I've seen, I've watched long talks where they just go country after country and show this relationship. But that doesn't prove anything to me.

Brian (16m 23s):

Gotcha. Anyway, interesting.

Bill (16m 24s):

I that's a, that's a bit of a soap box. I'll get off it.

Brian (16m 27s):

Well, it, no, I mean, it's, it is true. I, I do feel like for anything nowadays, if you wanna find something that sort of works in your favor as far as your views, you could find pro, you know, you could probably find some things, right? I mean, lin, like linoleic acid, you know, seed oils like canola and peanut and soy and sunflower. So you don't think that cooking in those could is

Bill (16m 53s):

Well, you know Yeah. Cooking in those now. That's right. That's a good point. Yeah. What happens, what does cooking do to those oils, you know? Right. Variety of things. And again, I'm not a expert on the effects of cooking at certain temperatures with certain times. So Yeah. I mean, that door is possibly open. I I, I'm not adverse to that. But when we talk about Omega six, let's talk about Omega six. Let's talk, talk about seed oils. There are different questions. Okay. you know, and so let's just be clear what we're talking about. And so I, I'm open to the possibility that, you know, overcooked, overheated seed oils are bad for you.

Bill (17m 34s):

Sure. That's possible. That doesn't mean Omega six is bad for you.

Brian (17m 38s):

Ands where are people getting most of their Omega sixes then since there's been such a rough, so

Bill (17m 43s):

I think from those, from those not necessarily overheated oils, not necessarily from french fries at McDonald's, which doesn't have much of Omega six in it. Actually there, there are soybean oils I mentioned earlier is used in a lot of different products. Yeah. And, you know, I guess that's another point to make is, you know, maybe it's the company that, you know, if you, if you're eating a lot of processed foods, one of, one of whose components is a soybean oil, there's other stuff in that processed food that may be bad for your health. Fair enough. Sure. you know, could be, don't pin it on the Omega sixes if it's something else.

Bill (18m 27s):

And Omega six is an innocent bystander. I mean, that's possible. So I just want people to think critically and carefully about what they're criticizing and what's the evidence for exactly what they're criticizing.

Brian (18m 39s):

Right. And obviously there's a difference between just, you know, that oil being in the product as opposed to actually heating that oil and how it could potentially cause you know, downstream effects.

Bill (18m 51s):

Absolutely. Right, right. Could very, very well be,

Brian (18m 55s):

Because obviously the saturated fats are the more stable fats to cook in. I would assume

Bill (19m 1s):

They can't oxidize. That's true.

Brian (19m 3s):

They can or can't they, they Right.

Bill (19m 5s):

They're not Right. But that doesn't mean they can't, you know, form other, other weird compounds that are not natural. They just don't necessarily become oxidized. And, and so

Brian (19m 18s):

Should people strive for certain Omega six to Omega three ratio?

Bill (19m 24s):

Oh, there's another, there's another one. Right. Okay. Yeah. I mean, and I, how much time do we have on this? Oh,

Brian (19m 33s):

As long as you want. Long

Bill (19m 34s):

As you want. I know. No, just briefly. I, I I'm not a fan of Omega six, Omega three ratio.

Brian (19m 40s):

Okay. Well,

Bill (19m 41s):

Not, well, well several things. Number one, it presumes Omega sixes are bad. And I just went through a litany on that. That's debatable at, at the very least it's debatable. Number two, when we say Omega six, there are seven different Omega, six fatty acids in our blood, and maybe two or three in our diet. Which ones are you talking about? you know, it's not precise, it's not specific. It assumes that arachidonic acid, which is 23, is equivalent to linoleic acid. Those are the two major ones in the diet and the blood. And they're not different health effects, different metabolites from both of 'em. So it, it's incorrect, it's sloppy, it's mentally sloppy to put all Omega sixes into one bucket and say they all behave the same way.

Bill (20m 30s):

It's like saying e P A and D H A are the same thing as a L a on the Omega three side, which is another problem. 'cause you don't, the Omega six, Omega three ratio does not differentiate D H A from a L a. That's a problem. Number three, you can have high levels of Omega six and high levels of Omega three or low levels of Omega six and low Omega and have the same ratio. Sure. So mathematically it's problematic. And, you know what to do about it. Oh, your ratio's too low. Why should I lower my sixes or should I raise my threes? Well, if I can fix the ratio by lowering my sixes, I don't have to do anything when I'm with my Omega threes 'cause I'll fix the ratio.

Bill (21m 14s):

Well, that's not gonna be helpful if you don't ra the problem in America, I think is lack of E P A and D H A. So that's why I think that's the metric to look at. What's the E P A D H A? Don't worry about the rest of the stuff. Get your E P A and d H A levels up and everything else is sort out, your ratio will improve. Okay. You, if you increase the denominator, the ratio improves.

Brian (21m 39s):

I hear you. Yeah. So

Bill (21m 41s):

Anyway, what

Brian (21m 41s):

Would you say, I I, and this is a thought out of a gentleman I've had on Jay Feldman, just a health researcher. I don't know if you know Dr. Ray Pete. He does a lot of work. He's okay. But he talked about how d h a is one of the weakest and least stable fats

Bill (21m 58s):


Brian (21m 60s):

And when you Yeah.

Bill (22m 1s):

You, you mean potentially unstable? Sure. Okay. You could accept, unless it's, I mean, show me the data is what I'd say. Okay.

Brian (22m 10s):

Yeah. Yeah. I was just curious. 'cause he's talked about how yeah, like the structure component of the, when used as a structural component of the mitochondria increases the leakage of energy more than any other polyunsaturated, Fat, D H A does. And it's more susceptible to damage than monounsaturated fats. That was sort of his,

Bill (22m 30s):

That if, if you certainly put both of it in a test tube and you bubble oxygen through it. Right. Definitely. The d h A is gonna break down. No question. That doesn't mean in a membrane, in biology in real life that d h A can be replaced by a mono and, and you'll do better. That's a huge leap. you know, what happens in a test tube in a laboratory is very different. I mean, I, I don't know any, what he says about energy leakage in mitochondria. I'd like to see the data. Okay. I would like to see it if it's in real life or are we talking about in a Petri dish? you know, because everything I've seen all our studies, higher levels of d h A in your blood, which reflects higher levels of D H A in your tissues is always so far Okay.

Bill (23m 24s):

Been associated with better health outcomes, whatever. It's from the brain and to the heart, to the lung, to the kidney, et cetera. you know? So show me the data.

Brian (23m 38s):

I'll send you his article.

Bill (23m 40s):

Okay. Yeah. I'll yeah. Send me the article.

Brian (23m 42s):

Yeah. I'll, I think, I think, yeah, I'd be curious to know. We, we won't have to get into all of that today, but I'll send you his article because I've had him on a few times. I respect his opinion. And, you know, obviously, you know, there's different things out there. So I'll send you that. Yeah,

Bill (23m 53s):

Yeah. Good. We'll talk, we'll talk about it. Maybe we'll get back on and discuss that.

Brian (23m 58s):

Yeah, no, that would be good. So what, what would you say, you know, individuals should do on a daily basis as far as Omega threes is concerned? And, you know, you know what, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, what sort of sources can you utilize? I know a l a is probably not maybe the best, but

Bill (24m 18s):

Yeah. Right. I know. Well, let's start with the, the vast majority of Americans who are not vegetarians or vegans or omnivores, And. what do, what do I say to do? Well, ideally you'll eat more oily fish. Just add more salmon, mackerel, herring, you know, sardines, anchovies, yuck. Sorry,

Brian (24m 46s):

I'm not an ancho. I do like herring. I do like Matt,

Bill (24m 48s):

Me really well now you're, you're, you're in rarefied space right there. Most people will do okay with salmon, which is one of the best sources. But herring's a great source. And, what about in, okay,

Brian (25m 0s):

Go ahead. No, I was just gonna say with salmon, you know, we get a really well sourced salmon. I don't know if you know this company called Zootopia. I've had 'em on my podcast Cool Chuck Company to check out. But they actually do farm raised fish. Not just salmon, but it's in an environment that the species is, that the species should be in. So they're, they're feeding 'em theology the correct, you know, whatever diet that they should be fed. But it's in a controlled environment because you know what, obviously what's happening in the sea, you know, you know, even wild fish, you know, you have, you could be contaminated. What are your thoughts around the, you know, you know, these microplastics and the contamination, you know, with getting these oily fish and

Bill (25m 44s):

Yeah. A again, i, I think you can major in the miners. Yeah. you know, years ago people were doing risk benefit ratio or calculations for okay, if you eliminate salmon from your diet because you're worried about dioxin, pbcs, you know, things like that. 'cause because those small amounts of those are, were in, this is now a decade ago, they've been cleaned up. But you know, you, you, you miss out on the Omega threes, but you also eliminate these potential carcinogens. Sure. You, you, you know, you do the analysis and say, well it is like 400 to one in favor of eating the salmon.

Bill (26m 29s):

Got it. Because your risk goes down like this much for cancer and it goes up this much for heart disease. you know, it's just a huge imbalance. So you gotta look at risk benefit. And that's kind of where I'm at with most of these discussions about farmed wild, you know, what are they feeding the farmed? Are they feeding 'em more vegetable oils? There's more Omega six. Yeah. Okay. It's still the best source of Omega three you can get out there. It's, maybe it's not what it was 30 years ago. That doesn't mean it's not still a good product. I mean there's still, it's a good source of EPA and D H a, you know, I just, you gotta look at the balance to me. It, right.

Bill (27m 9s):

Don't, don't fill the baby with the bath water. Right,

Brian (27m 11s):

Right. No, that makes sense. I mean what, so, okay, so mackerel, herring, salmon,

Bill (27m 19s):

Right? We, it smash is the acronym salmon,

Brian (27m 23s):

Right? Yeah.

Bill (27m 25s):

Mackerel, anchovy. Herring. Sardine. Wait minute. Did I, did I spell it wrong?

Brian (27m 31s):

I think that was everything.

Bill (27m 32s):

No f Yeah, the A

Brian (27m 33s):

You spelled it. You spelled it wrong. But you might have again, right,

Bill (27m 36s):

I got it right. I'm not science. What

Brian (27m 39s):

About so shellfish as well. Huh?

Bill (27m 43s):

Shellfish like Yeah, like oysters are pretty good in Omega three, which always seems puzzling to me 'cause there's not much Fat there. Not much oil. But otherwise things like lobster or, or

Brian (27m 57s):

Mussel, shrimp,

Bill (27m 59s):

Octopus, no muscles. Maybe I've not, I haven't looked at clams. I don't really eat clams.

Brian (28m 5s):

Me neither.

Bill (28m 6s):

Yeah. But those, so back to your original question, I mean, so, but now those are the omnivores. Sure. They'll eat fish vegetarians. you know, I think probably the, one of the best diet is probably a pescatarian pe, pesca, vegetarian, that kind of thing. I'll eat just, the only meat I eat is fish that I like. That is the best choice of best ballast. But I mean, do I do it? No, I should do. Well, yeah. you know, more than I used to. But, but vegans where they won't eat anything from an animal, then that eliminates e p a and d h a from fish But.

Bill (28m 49s):

it does not eliminate e p A and d h A from microalgae, which are the original ocean source of E p A and d h a So, they start out as a plant. Now most people aren't eating microalgae. you know, you can't even buy microalgae. You can, you can buy oils derived from cultivated microalgae. And so you can get e p A and d h a from algae sources. And those are more and more available. And vegans can certainly do that a l a alone. you know, if that, if you, if you're not gonna eat e p A and d h a, you're not gonna take a supplement e p a and d h a.

Bill (29m 29s):

Well that's, you know, that's the third choice. That's plan C I guess you'd say for a vegan is be sure you get plenty of a L a

Brian (29m 38s):

And a l A is mainly not seeds, things like that. Seed oils, flaxseed oil.

Bill (29m 43s):

Right, right. Flaxseed oil, 50%, 50, you know, half of the weight of flaxseed oil is a l a. Okay. So you could take, you could take a teaspoon of that a day and get plenty of a l a, you know,

Brian (29m 58s):

Are there other cultures that, that we can compare ourselves to, like the Japanese culture that where, where like they have higher, you know, subsets of Omega threes than we do.

Bill (30m 11s):

Yeah. They've kind of been the, the poster child, at least historically for a high about the highest Omega three in the planet. And in the, in the lowest risk, almost virtually no heart disease and the longevity about four years longer than Americans live again, historically, I'm not talking about today's generation, which is becoming more and more like us to their detriment. I'm afraid

Brian (30m 41s):

Probably 'cause of the western, our western culture,

Bill (30m 43s):

Western diet is invading Japan and they're, you know, cheeseburgers taste good. I, you know, they just do people like them. So not criticizing them for that. But the historically Japan has been the great example of what a long a life long high Omega three diet can produce in terms of health. I mean, and you think about it, it's truly amazing that they would live four years longer on average be 'cause they smoke more than Americans do traditionally. They had, they did, they certainly had higher stress. They had higher blood pressure, which was causing what they would, the cardiovascular disease in Japan was strokes partly from the high salt diet.

Bill (31m 32s):

So. they had a problem with cardiovascular. It wasn't coronary artery disease. It was here and it was hemorrhaging, not plugging up. So that was a problem. But, it, it certainly was very minimal compared to the prevention of heart disease that they enjoyed. And they were thin didn't, weren't overweight at all. And maybe I, I don't know that that's an Omega three effect. Having a long-term Omega, high Omega three diet make you thin. Not a lot of evidence for it, but maybe so yeah, that's an example of a, of a culture where high Omega three has been linked with good outcomes.

Bill (32m 19s):

If you look at like Eskimos writ large Greenland Eskimos, Canadian Eskimos, Alaskan Eskimos, it's kind of a mixed story because if, if they're, yeah, they're eating wild, you know, whale and, and seal and fish if they're coastal. But a lot of 'em are also eating at the, the, the commissary where they're buying really high, high saturated Fat cruddy food from, you know, cheap. And they're not getting nearly the exercise they used to 'cause they all have their snow machines and they just ride around on 'em, you know, so, and they smoke and they get infections and they, you know, you know, it's health is a mixed bag.

Bill (33m 1s):

And Omega three is not the panacea for everything by any means.

Brian (33m 5s):

Now you came up with the Omega three Index. Maybe explain that a little bit.

Bill (33m 11s):

Yeah. Based on a couple of studies late nineties, early two thousands that showed that people with the highest Omega three blood levels were the least likely to have sudden cardiac arrest, sudden cardiac death. Two papers showed that two very different papers both showed the same thing. And that was around 2002 when those papers became evident. And a, a colleague of mine in Germany, Dr. Clemens von Shaki, he and I were at a meeting in Chicago 2002 and heard this talk about Omega three levels predicting risk for sudden cardiac death being again high Omega three really, really low risk.

Bill (33m 52s):

and we said, dang, there's gotta be a blood test for this. People need to, there wasn't a blood test So. we said, let's, let's make one up. I mean, I mean we, we had done some of this before, but let's, let's make something that's available to consumers, to doctors So. They can actually test their Omega three, Omega three level of their patients. And so in 2004 we published a, a kind of paper that's that proposed, the Omega three Index as a new marker. And it's really the red blood cell level of E P A and d H a. And so it's, it's a marker from the blood, specifically from the red blood cells, which, you know, make up half of the blood.

Bill (34m 35s):

And it's a good marker of membrane Omega three levels, which also is a reflection of the, the, your other, your heart, your liver, your lungs, those other hard tissues of their Omega three levels. So, and we called it the Omega three Index just kinda came up with that term. Yeah. It's not, doesn't include all the Omega threes. Yeah, I know But it point is it predicts outcomes quite well. It predicts health status quite well. So that we proposed in 2004, started a laboratory 2009 to offer it and had been doing it ever since.

Brian (35m 14s):

Yeah. I'm looking at it right now on your website. And there's also tests for, you do vitamin D and a prenatal d h A test and then a vitamin B 12 test.

Bill (35m 24s):

Right, right. Those are the, the prenatal D H A test is obviously for moms pregnant women. And we'd like to see their levels up about 5% on the D H A only Omega three is e P A plus d h A in red cells. So it's a little higher 'cause you add two fatty acids together and we think that ought to be about 8% for general cardiovascular health, just general health across the board. Hmm. And yeah, the vitamin D test is, is also a dried blood spot. These are all dried blood spot based tests. So you prick your finger at home, drop the blood sent in the mail, get a report.

Bill (36m 6s):

The B 12 vitamin B 12 status test is based on urine. So you have to collect urine and set that in a little more complicated for some people, but it's a good metric, a good measure of your B 12 status. And older people particularly are, and, and vegans are at risk for B 12. Sure. Deficiency for sure. And we're also hoping to come out with a, a high sensitivity c r p dried blood spot test as well. And we've got the hemoglobin A one C dried blood spot test, so for glycemic status diabetics.

Brian (36m 44s):

So instead of just going in, having your blood drawn, this is just a, a finger prick and send it in.

Bill (36m 50s):

Right, right. And then yeah, you obviously we recommend you, you know, work with your doctor, but you can order these tests and it pretty well interpret 'em. Sure. Pretty simple, particularly the Omega three. It's just very simple. If your Omega three levels are too low, well take fish oils or eat more fish and it's, you know, that's not gonna hurt anybody

Brian (37m 15s):

With fish oils. There's obviously that market's been just inundated with different fish oils all over, right? Like I I are there certain ones, I mean should you, obviously you can go to Walgreens and find one for 15 bucks or you could go spend probably 70 bucks on one and somewhere in between. That's right. Which should individuals look for as far as quality? Omega threes? Yeah. If they're not getting it from their diet,

Bill (37m 40s):

It, it, it's a great question and it, it's a tough, I, I guess you know, it's Walgreens, Walmart, you know, big box store Costco type stuff, you know, common one I see at Costco is 1200 milligrams. It's, it's screaming 1200 milligrams fish oil per pill. So it's, it's a fish oil pill that's 1.2 grams. So it's a little bit bigger than the average one gram pill, which is most people think is a horse pill anyway, it's got 300 milligrams of Omega three. It's a really low, I mean it's cheap because it's very low concentration per pill of Omega three.

Bill (38m 20s):

You gotta look, you don't look at the 1000 milligram, 1200 milligram you that just tells you how much fish soil's in there. Not how much Omega three is there. So you gotta flip it on the land on the back. Look at how much E P A and D H A is there per capsule, per serving actually is what they show. Right. And many times a serving is two pills. So you gotta look at that as well. The more concentrated it, it is an Omega three. In other words, the more, the more E P A D H A per capsule, the more expensive the problem is. Just, it takes more and more processing and the more concentrated it is, the cleaner.

Bill (39m 4s):

It's not that the other ones are, I mean, I don't really think that the cheap stuff at Costco or whatever is, is bad for you. It's just you're taking, excuse me, you're taking, you know, 80% of the oil you're getting in that capsule is not Omega three, it's just other fats you'd get in your diet anyway. So it's not giving you much, it's just a poor way to do it. But it's not hard. Don't see it as harmful, I don't think we're, there's toxins there that, you know, you know, cancel the effects of been of Omega three. I mean the average American diet provides roughly of a hundred milligrams of EPA and D h a a day.

Bill (39m 51s):

And that's, that's the average, the median intake I think is zero. Really meaning, yeah, you take the, it's because it's, it's skewed. you know, there are some people that eat fish and they have much higher Omega three intakes and then the vast majority of people that don't eat any. And so if you average that out across everybody, it comes out to be about a hundred milligrams a day. But if you look at the, you know, the median is the middle person, right. America, they're eating nothing. So if you take one of these even cheap fish oil pills from Costco that gives you 300 milligrams in a big tablet, it's three, you know, three times the average right there.

Bill (40m 32s):

That's, that's, that's huge step forward. So I don't want to criticize that per se, but it's not the optimal way to do it. Now you're gonna, you can pay right. 70, a hundred bucks a bottle. Some, some places Oh yeah. Potty, potty process. Here's the word process, going the right way. Right, right. Purified, you know, that kind of thing. Right. And, you know, I don't get real exercised about that. I I think that's great if you wanna do it. I'm not too concerned about Uber, Uber, uber pure Omega three. 'cause I don't think the others are that bad. But, you know, I I, this is not something I get real excited about.

Brian (41m 14s):

Is there an upper limit?

Bill (41m 17s):

You got some good questions, man.

Brian (41m 19s):

Well, you're only my 270 something us. I think I'd be, it's somewhat improving upon that, but maybe not

Bill (41m 27s):

An upper limits. Good question. And meaning is there a level, an intake which becomes dangerous? Yeah. That's what we mean by an upper limit, right. Which has adverse health consequences.

Brian (41m 40s):

Or could someone do the Index that you have the Omega three Index and it's like just at, at a, at like huge number and you're like, whoa. Like could that be

Bill (41m 52s):

Yeah. Right. And what now? We've seen some huge numbers. Yeah. You do millions of tests. You, you see numbers A, a again, about 95% of Americans are under 8%. We'd like to see 8% or above. That's our goal. Eight to we, we always say eight to 12% of E P A and d h a and red cell membranes. Average Americans are around five and a half.

Brian (42m 14s):


Bill (42m 16s):

Okay. So we'd like to see eight to 12. Well, why 12 is above 12 dangerous? Well, not that we know of. It's just that we just don't know. I mean we've got, there's so little research out at that high level of, of anybody who's, I mean the Japanese may be average around nine to 10% and they do really well. And there's even some evidence that people are up around 11% in Japan doing better than those are 8%. Okay, well that's good. But we don't have any data beyond 12% to say yes or no good or bad. Right. So, we just limit our recommendations to say if you're at 12%, you're 13%, you don't need to be at 13% as far as anybody knows.

Bill (43m 3s):

You, you probably can cut back and you're gonna be just fine. You don't need to be at 16%. There's no evidence that that's going to be any benefit and there's no evidence that that's gonna be any harm. So it's just kind of a a, it's out there in the midst of unknown. It is just no human population really ever lives at chronically at a 15% Omega three Index. You can do it with supplements if you want to, but I'm not sure if there's any evidence that would, it's good for you.

Brian (43m 38s):

Could it be predictive? Could the Index be predictive of certain diseases like Alzheimer's or dementia or things like that?

Bill (43m 45s):

Yeah, yeah. That's kinda what I've been dedicating my, my life to the last 15 years or so, started out with heart disease and showed that higher Omega three Index it typically up, you know, we look at that 8% and above that level is associated with lower risk for all kinds of, from Alzheimer's disease. We saw in the Framingham study that people that had the highest Omega three, like in the top 20 percentile of Omega three, which is seven to 8% in Framingham, 50% lower risk for developing Alzheimer's disease. I mean, it doesn't mean that Omega threes are causing that, but it's consistent with that idea that a chronically high level of Omega three will slow, slow the development of Alzheimer's other dementias.

Bill (44m 37s):

We know that's true for cardiovascular disease. We know that's true for diabetes. We know that's true. We know that's true for death from anything total mortality, highest Omega three levels the lowest risk for death. Even cancer death, even non-cardiovascular, non-cancer deaths. Just the whole, the whole gamish of all the reasons people die seems to be better if you have a higher Omega three. So that's kind of what we're, we're looking at. We just want beat the medical community over the head with as many studies as we can saying, look, a high Omega three is good for A, B, C, D, E, F g h And.

Bill (45m 22s):

you know, we can't do a randomized controlled trial with a placebo for 20, 30 years to prove this to you guys. Yeah. But wake up this stuff is not dangerous. Just because it, in some, you know, trials the last four years in old people, it doesn't change the outcome. Doesn't mean that higher Omega threes are not better for you. That's, that's, but that's what the medical establishment looks at. It's just randomized trials. That's it. They ignore everything else. And that's, I think shortsighted, especially when you're talking about completely safe nutrients. Did I get off on my little tangent there? Sorry about that.

Brian (46m 4s):

No, that's All right. Is there anything else we're missing? Like where do you, where would you say you get your daily intake of Omega threes from? Mostly

Bill (46m 13s):


Brian (46m 14s):

Oh, okay. So you don't,

Bill (46m 15s):

Which I take about 400, 1400 milligrams a day from a and I like, I mean there are different kinds of, of chemical forms of Omega three. So one is the triglyceride form, which is means the oil, classic oil, fish oils like that. It's triglycerides and that's well absorbed and it's fine. Works great. Then there's a phospholipid form, which is what you get like in, typically in krill oil is rich in phospholipids. That's a great form. It's absorbed. Well, you know, is it absorbed vastly better than triglycerides? No, but it's still a good form.

Bill (46m 55s):

And, and I, I don't have a problem with Carla. Then there's alga oils, which are usually triglyceride form. That's good. The drug, the Omega three drugs, pharmaceutical Omega three products are all ethyl lesters, which means chemically just means they've, they've split off the E P A and the D H A from all these triglycerides through away everything else kept the e P A and D H A and then hooked a alcohol group to the end of it. That's an ethyl alcohol like ethanol, not dangerous But, it allows you to put a lot more inside your pill.

Bill (47m 36s):

That's just e p a and d h a other stuff doesn't take up space. So the ethyl esters are very common, is particularly in higher concentrate forms. The only problem I have with them is they're just not very well absorbed unless you take 'em with a meal, fatty meal. And, and you should be able to see on the bottle on the back, it should say at the Lester's in that really tiny font at the bottom, if that's what it is. I, I don't think they're bad for you. Are they the best? I don't think they're the best, but they're better than nothing for sure. So I take a, a triglyceride, what they call a restructured or re reconstitute a triglyceride, which is a high concentrate that is a triglyceride, but they're the most expensive form too.

Brian (48m 27s):

And do you have anything, any studies coming up or what's on the horizon for you?

Bill (48m 32s):

Oh, we are, again, our, my, my research world is looking at relationships between Omega three levels in the blood and health. and we just presented a paper at the nutrition society meetings last month or yeah, last month. This is August showing really for the first time that the higher people with high Omega three levels have lower risk of hearing loss. Hmm. Because, you know, I mean we, the Omega threes make up every membrane. They're in every membrane and membranes of the inner ear and all the, the nerve nerve circuitry to the brain.

Bill (49m 13s):

It's, there's Omega threes there and if there's lower levels of Omega three, they're just not operating as well. So we've seen that with dry eye disease. You've seen that macular degeneration. Now we're starting to hear, hear about it with hearing. That's I think, fascinating area. Hmm. So we're gonna be digging more into that. But we are have access to many different databases of patients who have been followed over many, many years who eventually have developed disease A, B, C, D, whatever it is. And if we can get their blood from before they had that disease, that's the important thing.

Bill (49m 56s):

Maybe the Omega three levels, then we can see how Omega threes predicted those outcomes. And that's, so that's a lot of fun. We're gonna be looking at Omega six and cancer just to look at that idea. Is is, is it true or not that people with a higher Omega, six levels in their blood, are they more likely to develop cancer or not? Nobody knows if, if it, if it is true that higher linoleic acids associated with increased risk of cancer, okay. That's something we need to deal with. If it's the other way around, which I suspect it will be 'cause that's what it was for heart disease and diabetes, that the highest Omega six levels are associated with lower risk of cancer, then that just again puts another nail in the coffin of the Omega sixes are bad.

Bill (50m 43s):

Hmm. you know, so we're studying things like that too.

Brian (50m 47s):

And if people want to get their Index le tested, Omega three Index tested, I noticed there's three tests. Should, do you recommend just starting with a basic test or

Bill (50m 56s):

Yeah. Right. And the Right, the three tests I think is the basic Omega three Index, all of them come from the dried blood spot. Okay. Prick finger, put a drop of blood and send it it. You can pick the, the basic Omega three Index, which is the thing I think is the most important piece. You can get the, what we call the plus test, which includes some ratios, Omega six, Omega three ratio. Because some people like it even though you don't, some people like it. Okay. I'm not gonna impose my biases on anybody. Plus we get the trans Fat Index there, it gives you, the trans fatty acids are measured also in Emirate. So you get that with the plus.

Bill (51m 37s):

I see. And the complete gives you all of that plus all the other fatty acids that are in your blood and it gives you a level of those things. Some people like that. you know, I, I don't think it's as important as, you know, get the basics first. Right. I think that's where you'd start the basic test and basic test. Yeah. You can go to Omega quant.com and just order it, I think it's like 50 bucks, something like that. They send you a, a little kit, prick your finger and put it on the paper and drop it in the mail. And I think between like roughly five days after it hits the lab, the report should be in your inbox.

Bill (52m 18s):

Very cool. Something like that.

Brian (52m 20s):

Okay. Yeah, no that's great. Omega quant.com, is that the place?

Bill (52m 27s):

Yeah, I was just, I was gonna say we also have, we have a partner lab in, in Australia as well as in Scotland and for the eu. Okay. So we're kind of covered worldwide. If people wanna get Omega three Index testing from our laboratory, they can do it. Just going to OmegaQuant and we will get it figured out.

Brian (52m 50s):

Excellent. And All. right. Is that the best place for people to find what you're up to? Is, is,

Bill (52m 56s):

I think so. Okay. Yeah, you can go, you know, look at the about us kind of page and see, see what I'm doing. You can email me at bill at OmegaQuant and happy to respond to questions.

Brian (53m 8s):

Excellent. Well, I, I appreciate you coming on and sharing all this knowledge, knowledge about Omega threes and I'll also, I'll send you some articles and I'm curious to hear. Yeah,

Bill (53m 17s):

Yeah. we can have a little offline chat about those things,

Brian (53m 21s):

All. right. Well thanks so, so much for coming on Bill.

Bill (53m 24s):

Okay. Alright, great. Take care. Thank you. Take care. Bye-bye.

Brian (53m 30s):

Thanks for listening to the GETLEAN E Clean podcast. I understand there are millions of other Podcasts out there and you've chosen to listen to mine and I appreciate that. Check out the show notes at Brian Gryn dot com for everything that was mentioned, In, this episode. Feel free to subscribe to the podcast and share it with a friend or family member that's looking to get their body back to what it once was. Thanks again and have a great day.

Dr. Bill Harris

Dr. Harris is an internationally recognized expert on omega-3 fatty acids and how they can benefit patients with heart disease. He obtained his Ph.D. in Human Nutrition from the University of Minnesota and did post- doctoral fellowships in Clinical Nutrition and Lipid Metabolism with Dr. Bill Connor at the Oregon Health Sciences University.

His interest in omega-3 fatty acids began with his postdoctoral work when he published his first study on the effects of salmon oil on serum lipids in humans (1980). Since that time he has been the recipient of five NIH grants for studies on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) on human health.

He has more than 300 publications relating to fatty acids, including omega-3s, in medical literature and was an author on two American Heart Association scientific statements on fatty acids: "Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease" (2002), and "Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease" (2009) both published in the journal Circulation.

Dr. Harris co-invented the Omega-3 Index in 2004 and made it commercially available to the research community and the public in 2009. To date, the Omega-3 Index has been used as the standard measure of omega-3 status in more than 200 clinical studies. Dr. Harris is also a Professor in the Department of Medicine in the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota.

Dr. Harris moved on as OmegaQuant's President in late 2020 to establish the Fatty Acid Research Institute (FARI), where he will go back to his roots of conducting research on fatty acids and health.


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