Omega-3's and Athletic Performance

Next Level Podcast with Host Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LD

Bill Harris- Podcast

Bill Harris, MD
Dr. Harris is a Senior Scientist at Health Diagnostic Laboratory; a Professor in the Department of Medicine, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota; and the President and CEO of OmegaQuant.

Dr. Bill Harris is an internationally recognized expert on omega-3 fatty acids and omega 3 benefits for patients with heart disease, and athletic populations. 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, and can speak to appropriate omega 3 dosages. He has over 150 publications relating to omega-3 fatty acids 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. In 2004, Dr. Harris and his colleague Dr. Clemens von Schacky, a cardiology researcher in Munich, Germany, proposed that the Omega-3 Index be considered a new risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and in 2009 Dr. Harris founded OmegaQuant, LLC, to offer the test to researchers, clinicians and the public. In 2011, the HS-Omega-3 Index® technology was acquired by Health Diagnostic Laboratory, Inc., Richmond, VA where the test is now performed for medical clients. OmegaQuant continues to perform fatty acid analysis in Sioux Falls, SD for commercial and academic researcher collaborators. Dr. Harris is a Senior Scientist at Health Diagnostic Laboratory; a Professor in the Department of Medicine, Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota; and the President and CEO of OmegaQuant.

In this episode you will learn:

1)      What are the key Omega 3’s that are beneficial to our health and athletic peformance.
2)      Can Omega 3’s play an important role in athletic performance
3)      What are the different types of Omega 3 fatty acids
4)      How can consumers determine if the Fish Oil they are taking is good quality
5)      What are the recommended dosages for optimal health
6)      Is there an Upper Limit of taking Fish Oil
7)      Can Fish Oil assist in Fat Loss
8)      Are there any side effects of taking too much Fish Oil
9)      How is Krill Oil different from Fish Oil

Podcast Transcript

0:00 The Next Level Podcast Intro and Welcome by Tavis Piattoly 

1:50 Introduction to Dr. Bill Harris and OmegaQuant

  • Dr. Harris is the CEO of OmegaQuant
  • OmegaQuant conducts fatty acid analyses of blood, plasma, breast milk and other tissues. OmegaQuant measures this for both researchers and the public. 
  • OmegaQuant offers an omega-3 index test, which is a dry blood test. Once the lab receives the sample, the fatty acid composition is analyzed, which includes omega-3 levels and a report is generated. An omega-3 level associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and cellular aging is 8%. 

6:20 The omega-3 index test and its use in practice

  • Health Diagnostic lab, is a clinical laboratory in Virginia that utilizes the test in patient care. 
  • When a physician orders the test to be done on the patient as part of a cardiovascular health evaluation it typically is also covered by insurance. 
  • The test at OmegaQuant is done at the expense of the patient, since it is primarily a research/consumer lab. 
  • Two other major clinical labs are starting to offer different types of omega-3 tests. OmegaQuant uses the red cell membrane, which they feel is the best way to measure omega-3 status. Other labs might use plasma levels.

9:17 What are the key Omega 3’s that are beneficial to our health and athletic performance? How much should be consumed?

  • There are 3 different fatty acids in this family: EPA and DHA (in fish oil). The third is ALA (in plant foods such as canola, flaxseed oil or soybean oil). 
  • Supplement wise, there are fish oils (in the form of triglycerides), and two pharmaceutical drugs (in the form of ethyl esters). 
  • Krill oil is a mixture of oil and phospholipids. The levels of omega-3 in krill oil are low relative to fish oil. 
  • People who are low in omega-3s are at increased risk for sudden cardiac death. Populations with the highest omega-3 intakes tend to have low incidence of sudden cardiac related deaths. 
  • Consume oily fish to achieve a 500 mg daily intake. 

16:15 What are the differences between triglyceride or ethyl ester based supplements? How can a consumer identify the type used in a supplement? 

  • A triglyceride based supplement will say fish oil, or “triglyceride based” on the bottle.
  • Ethyl esters usually have more omega-3s per capsule because they can be more concentrated. It is recommended to consume ethyl esters with food. 

17:30 Can you touch on the krill oil in more detail? 

  • Krill oil is an attempt to get at an omega-3 source that is at the bottom of the food chain. Krill contain omega-3s in a phospholipid form and are absorbed better. However, they tend to be pretty expensive per gram of omega-3. 

19:35 How many omega-3s should people take each day? Is there a specific dose you feel is best?

  • 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Health wise, there’s no reason not to consume more. However, we think 500 mg is a practical compromise for Americans who don’t particularly consume fish on a regular basis. 

21:35 Can Omega 3’s play a role in athletic performance?

  • The research in this area has been pretty thin and there aren’t many studies. 
  • Where omegas likely have benefit is in the anti-inflammatory realm; the length of recovery after exercise, or after injury. The “aches and pains.” However, some of this is anecdotal. Overall, omegas may be beneficial for reducing pain post-exercise, but more research still needs to be done. 

24:30 Can Fish Oil assist in Fat Loss?

  • There are a few studies, but the majority do not include very many participants. At this point there’s just not a lot of evidence relating to omegas and fat/weight loss.  

26:00 Is there an Upper Limit of taking Fish Oil? 

  • There’s not much data on consumption levels of 5-7 g of fish oil per day, so we really don’t know, but looking at other populations who have previously been thought to have consumed fish oil at these levels have been fine. 
  • This intake of fish oil is beyond what you could do nutritionally, you’d have to rely on supplements. 

28:24 Can you speak to the recent study that found an association between prostate cancer risk and high omega-3 consumption? 

  • The omega-3 levels between the people who didn’t get prostate cancer and the people who did were very low and the difference in intake was very small. 
  • The participants of this study were not taking fish oil supplements nor were the researchers accounting for any fish consumption.
  •  The problem with this study is the author went way beyond the data by saying that fish oil supplements were increasing the risk for prostate cancer, which is not an appropriate conclusion from the study results. 

30:00 Tavis Piattoly Closing Remarks

  • If you want to learn more or get your omega-3 levels tested you can visit the omegaquant website at For individuals in Asia and Europe, the same test can be completed at our sister lab, by visiting the link In addition, there is a location in seoul, korea, omegaquant asia, where people can go and get the dry blood test.
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