Research Spotlight

The body of research advancing the understanding of nutrients – including their roles, optimal levels and best sources – is redefining the power of nutrients in achieving optimal health and preventing disease and other conditions. Get to know the science as you get to know your own levels of these important nutrients.

A study published in Progress in Lipid Research mapped the Omega-3 Index of people globally.

The 2016 study looked at the Omega-3 Index, which is the combined percentage of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in red blood cell membranes, in adults around the world. The Omega-3 Index can be measured with a simple blood test using a highly standardized analytical laboratory methodology.

The results were compelling, leading researchers to conclude that:
“…low and very low bloods levels observed for most of the globe are associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular-related mortality… It is also highly likely that increased blood levels of EPA+DHA across the globe would reduce the risk of cognitive decline with normal aging…”

Omega-3 insufficiency is a global health concern

The issue of low omega-3s EPA & DHA in the diet doesn’t discriminate. It affects most developed nations globally. In fact, regions with low and very low omega-3 levels include North America, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia and China.


Global Omega-3 Index Levels
Global Omega-3 Index Levels Legend
Global Omega-3 Index Levels Legend

The map shows that many countries and regions have low or very low levels of the Omega-3 Index. Progress in Lipid Research 63 (2016) 132-152

Study Title: "Global survey of the omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in the blood stream of healthy adults"

Study Abstract: Studies reporting blood levels of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), were systematically identified in order to create a global map identifying countries and regions with different blood levels. Included studies were those of healthy adults, published in 1980 or later. A total of 298 studies met all inclusion criteria. Studies reported fatty acids in various blood fractions including plasma total lipids (33%), plasma phospholipid (32%), erythrocytes (32%) and whole blood (3.0%). Fatty acid data from each blood fraction were converted to relative weight percentages (wt.%) and then assigned to one of four discrete ranges (high, moderate, low, very low) corresponding to wt.% EPA+DHA in erythrocyte equivalents.

Progress in Lipid Research, 63 (2016), 132-152. DOI: 10.106/j.plipres.2016.05.001.

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Due to the multitude of roles Vitamin D plays in the body, its impact and role in the prevention of disease and other conditions continues to be studied extensively. The following three peer-reviewed studies examine vitamin D’s role in reducing cancer risk, reducing the incidence of diabetes and reducing the incidence of pre-term births.

All three studies link vitamin D levels ≥40ng/ml with substantial reductions in the risk or incidence of these diseases and conditions.

A study published in PLoS One showed that serum levels of vitamin D ≥ 40ng/ml are associated with a 65% lower cancer risk.

Study Title: "Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentrations ≥40 ng/ml are Associated with >65% Lower Cancer Risk: Pooled Analysis of Randomized Trial and Prospective Cohort Study"

Study Abstract:
Higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations have been associated with a lower risk of multiple cancer types across a range of 25(OH)D concentrations. The objective of this analysis was to investigate whether the previously reported inverse association between 25(OH)D and cancer risk could be replicated, and if a 25(OH)D response region could be identified among women aged 55 years and older across a broad range of 25(OH)D concentrations. This paper concludes that 25(OH)D concentrations ≥40 ng/ml were associated with substantial reduction in risk of all invasive cancers combined.

PLoS One. 2016 Apr 6;11(4):e0152441. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0152441.

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A study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology showed the incidence of Type 2 diabetes is >50% lower with vitamin D levels of 41ng/ml than a median vitamin D level of 22 ng/ml.

Study Title: "Incidence Rate of Type 2 Diabetes is >50% Lower in GrassrootsHealth Cohort with Median Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D of 41 ng/ml than in NHANES Cohort with Median of 22 ng/ml"

Study Abstract:
Higher serum 25–hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentrations have been associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This study compared incidence rates of type 2 diabetes among participants aged ≥20 years in two U.S. cohorts with markedly different median 25(OH)D concentrations. The median 25(OH)D concentration in the GrassrootsHealth (GRH) cohort was 41 ng/ml (N = 4933) while in the 2005–6 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) it was 22 ng/ml (N = 4078) (P < 0.0001). The adjusted annual incidence rate of type 2 diabetes was 3.7 per 1000 population (95% confidence interval = 1.9, 6.6) in the GRH cohort, compared to 9.3 per 1000 population (95% confidence interval = 6.7, 12.6) in NHANES. In the NHANES cohort, the lowest 25(OH)D tertiles (<17, 17–24 ng/ml) had higher odds of developing diabetes than the highest tertile (OR: 4.9, P = 0.02 and 4.8, P = 0.01 respectively), adjusting for covariates. Differences in demographics and methods may have limited comparability. Raising serum 25(OH)D may be a useful tool for reducing risk of diabetes in the population.

Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 155 (2016), 239-244. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.06.013.

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A study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology showed that women with vitamin D levels ≥40 ng/mL had a 57% lower risk of preterm birth compared to those with levels ≤20 ng/mL

Study Title: "Post-Hoc Analysis of Vitamin D Status and Reduced Risk of Preterm Birth in Two Vitamin D Pregnancy Cohorts Compared with South Carolina March of Dimes 2011 Rates"

Study Abstract:
Women with serum 25(OH)D concentrations ≥40 ng/mL (n = 233) had a 57% lower risk of preterm birth compared to those with concentrations ≤20 ng/mL [n = 82; RR = 0.43, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.22,0.83]; this lower risk was essentially unchanged after adjusting for covariates (RR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.20,0.86). The fitted LOESS curve shows gestation week at birth initially rising steadily with increasing 25(OH)D and then plateauing at ≥40 ng/mL. Broken down by race/ethnicity, there was a 79% lower risk of preterm birth among Hispanic women with 25(OH)D concentrations ≥40 ng/mL (n = 92) compared to those with 25(OH)D concentrations ≤20 ng/mL (n = 29; RR = 0.21, 95% CI = 0.06,0.69) and a 45% lower risk among Black women (n = 52 and n = 50; RR = 0.55, 95% CI = 0.17,1.76). There were too few white women with low 25(OH)D concentrations for assessment (n = 3). Differences by race/ethnicity were not statistically significant with 25(OH)D included as a covariate.

Compared to the CC-MOD reference group, women with serum concentrations ≥40 ng/mL in the combined cohort had a 46% lower rate of preterm birth overall (n = 233, p = 0.004) with a 66% lower rate among Hispanic women (n = 92, p = 0.01) and a 58% lower rate among black women (n = 52, p = 0.04).

Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 155 (2016), 245-251. DOI: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2015.10.022.

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