The number one abnormal blood test Dr. Kahn sees across his clinic isn't vitamin D or B12.
It isn't protein or iron, either.
According to Dr. Kahn, people just aren't getting enough.
And this is a big problem.
Omega-3s are linked to blood, heart, and immune health. And they're essential for proper brain development, especially in kids.*
So why is no one talking about omegas?
To help us better understand the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, I sat down with Dr. Joel Kahn, MD to pick his brain on the role omegas play in our health and how best to get them on a plant-based diet.
(Actually, he stood up, using his treadmill desk...)
Watch it, here:
Dr. Joel Kahn, MD Interview Notes
04:46 - Why do omega-3s matter?
We can go through a dozen-plus systems in the body that have to have omega-3 fatty acids for optimal performance, and you can't make any. That's what would be in my "Jack and Jill" book. Jack and Jill can't make omega-3s.
They can make vitamin D with some sunshine. We can get some B12 through various sources, although very often that's a point to supplement.
But forget about it when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids. If you've failed to plan, you plan to fail. But it's nobody's fault. They're just not hearing this message.
I've been adding a blood test called omega-3 index, a blood test that measures in your blood quite accurately the level of omega-3. It is the number one, the most profoundly abnormal lab test across the spectrum of my clinic for years and years and years and years.
It's also one of the easiest ones to correct, a little patient education and little repeat testing. But has profound implications for current and future health.
08:43 - What about eating fish for omega-3s?
SMASH fish (sardine, mackerel, anchovy, herring, and salmon), are pretty high in omega-3 fatty acids because their habit is to eat a lot of algae, which contains DHA and EPA.
None of those fish make their own omega-3 fatty acids. They're just good at concentrating or accumulating them in their flesh.
And when we eat their flesh, you get everything in their flesh. Might be omega-3 fatty acids, but you're certainly getting a decent load of saturated fat. And you may well be crunching on some delicious mercury, and PCBs, and DDTs, because the fat of fish does like to accumulate bioenvironmental toxins.
So that's why we're so excited about algae. Going straight to the source.
14:28 - How much should you take?
For a long time, the American Heart Association would say for a heart patient, a 1,000 mg capsule a day would be a reasonable supportive health decision to make. What I kinda strive for with my patients is usually about 500 milligrams a day combined EPA, DHA.
I'll go much higher if I'm treating a disease. General health support versus treating a disease is quite a different kind of approach.
21:04 - Does the ratio of 3s, 6s, and 9s matter?
I'm a keep it simple, stupid, nutrition guy. You're not gonna find me calculating my macronutrients and all every day.
You can live a long, healthy life with a great brain, and a great heart, and great immune health without any omega-9. And same is true of omega-6. Your body will handle all that.
The only one you should focus on with any care and concern is omega-3 fatty acids. That's why they're called essential.
A lot of people will talk about omega-6 as the awful inflammatory fatty acid. The cardiology literature doesn't completely agree with that. There are healthy omega-6s and unhealthy, so I frankly just ditch that because it's not an easy evaluation to make, and you really don't have to say, I gotta eat omega-9 foods. Nope. You just need to eat omega-3 foods or take some.
30:41 - Joel's Final Thought
I'd like to leave you a last little tidbit or pearl. I mean, it's literally every week there's new science about plant-based diets, and not everybody responds.
I tell my patients that, "Plant-based diets do not make you 100% bulletproof. They just make you much more resilient."
And it doesn't... You don't skip your colonoscopy and your mammogram 'cause you eat a salad every day, but it makes you much more resistant to having those diseases.
But every day, we come up with more information, whether it's the environment, it's obviously always about animal rights, but our human health is optimal in a diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.