NBA Players Found to Have Low Omega-3 Levels

by Matt Weik

When you look at NBA players, you think of them as being the elite of the elite in terms of health and performance. They are in the gym every day, they have team doctors, trainers, and nutritionists who are there at the drop of a dime to help an athlete. You would assume that NBA players are being told what to eat, drink, how many hours to sleep, how to improve recovery, etc., in order to allow them to perform at the highest level when they suit up and hit the court.

Well, it appears that the NBA is allowing their players and athletes to slip through the cracks nutritionally. Personally, I find this inexcusable with all of the resources they have at their disposal, but then again, I’m not the GM or team owner, so what the heck do I know, right?

Here’s what I’m getting at. In a recently published study by a team at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, it was found that NBA players are utilizing omega-3s supplements. You’re probably thinking, so what? And you’d be right. Using omega-3 supplements is great, and it ensures they are getting all of the fatty acids they need on a daily basis. But here’s the downside of the study… most NBA players are below the standard omega-3 index (O3I) of 8% that denotes overall health benefits. That’s a red flag.

There have been many studies that dig deep into omega-3s in regard to college athletes playing at the Division 1 (D1) level, but minimal research has been done on professional athletes. This research looking at NBA players is the first one to assess omega-3 intake and index.

If anything, the finding of this study on NBA players should open the eyes to all of the other professional sports (baseball, football, tennis, golf, soccer, etc.) to go get their athletes checked as well for any sort of nutritional deficiencies.

Research Assessment on NBA Players

According to the 2021 research on NBA players published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, fish consumption and consumption of omega-3 supplements were assessed. Out of various methods to measure omega-3s in the bloodstream, the research was done on the basis of the omega-3 index. It measures the omega-3 content in the red blood cells, and it is shown as a percentage.

Various studies that have used the omega-3 index in the past have discovered that subjects who have a level of 4% or less tend to develop a risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease. If the level is around 4%-8%, then the risk is relatively lower, and if it is 8% or higher, then there is little to no risk of cardiovascular disease.

Besides cardiovascular diseases, it should also be noted that a higher level of omega-3s can lead to some significant nutritional benefits. The authors of the given study have discussed omega-3s and their association with less exercise-induced inflammation, better range of motion after working out, and decreased muscle pain.

One researcher was quoted saying, “I wouldn’t want to say that a higher omega-3 index would make you a better basketball player. But recovering faster, less muscle pain after work, and reduced inflammation are all associated. And this is not an expensive or dangerous thing to do. If you want to be responsible over the long haul for the health of these young guys, then more omega-3s is just a good idea.”

98% of the NBA Players Were Deficient in Omega-3s

There were 119 NBA players involved in the study, and they came from 13 NBA teams from around the country. The average age of all the players was around 24, and most of them were identified as of African American origin.

Out of 119 NBA players, 61% were reported to consume lesser than two servings of fish per week, whereas one-third reported consuming no fish at all.

Around 10% of the studied NBA players took omega-3 supplements. There were 12 players who took supplements – 11 of them used a fish oil supplement, and only one used an omega-3 nutrition bar.

Here’s the most crucial part of this entire study and something that should shock not only the athletes but the various NBA organizations, and that is the fact that 98% of the players had an omega-3 index level below the standard 8% level. These are professional athletes! Where are the nutritionist and dieticians at in these organizations? Why are they not on top of their athletes in terms of their overall health? Or do they only care about how they perform on the court?

The players who took omega-3 supplements had a 6% omega-3 index average, and those who did not have around 4.99% of omega-3 index level.

The study denoted that the NBA players had a little higher omega-3 index level than Division 1 college athletes, although they had similar fish intakes when it came to their diet.

NBA Teams About to Consider Omega-3 Supplementation to Defeat Deficiency

William Harris, Ph.D., and founder of OmegaQuant and principal at the Fatty Acid Research Institute, said the result of omega-3 index levels of the NBA players shows the gloomy omega-3 levels of the overall US population – and we already know Americans have a terrible diet and it’s for that reason that over 60% are overweight and over 40% are considered obese. That’s not throwing shade, that’s merely the facts.

Harris stated that NBA teams are looking forward to making omega-3s readily available for players through various supplements and having this become a regular part of their nutrition strategy for all their NBA players