Category Archives: essential fatty acids

Plant-sourced omega-3s

Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackeral, trout and herring being the strongest source
Fish is the richest food source of omega 3, with mackerel, trout and herring being the strongest source

By now it is well known that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for health; however, it is important to know that not all omega-3s are the same. The various chemical structures of different types of omega-3 fatty acids exert varying effects on health.

The science of fatty acids

So a bit about the science: ‘short-chain’ fatty acids are those found in plant oils and as the name suggests, they are made up of a smaller number of carbon atoms, therefore making the chain short in length. ‘Long-chain’ fatty acids, such as omega-3 EPA and DHA found in fish, are those with more carbon atoms, and are longer in length. The longer chain fatty acids are those that produce the anti-inflammatory effects in the body by producing hormone-like substances called eicosanoids.

Vegetarian plant source

If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may be wondering how you can achieve this anti-inflammatory effect without eating fish. Fortunately, the body is adept at converting fatty acids (to a certain extent), so that when we eat ‘short-chain’ fatty acids such as echium seed oil, the body can metabolise these fats into the same chemical structure as the ‘long-chain’ omega-3 EPA found in fish. In this process, only a certain amount of short-chain fatty acids are converted to long-chain fatty acids, depending on both the type of fat consumed and the presence of other vitamins and minerals which are required for enzymes to work properly.

Echium seed oil

Echium seed oil is one of the finest oils of choice for vegetarians, as it naturally contains an optimal balance of omegas 3, 6 and 9. Unique to echium seed oil is its rich source of the specific omega-3 fatty acid SDA, which is the direct precursor to omega-3 EPA, meaning that it is very easily converted to EPA in the body, with usually around 25-30% conversion. This makes echium seed oil one of the best plant-sourced oils to consume for reducing inflammation; it may therefore help to reduce symptoms for conditions such as arthritis and inflammatory skin disorders. EPA is also required for synthesising neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, so echium seed oil may help to enhance mood.

Echium seed oil also contains the omega-6 fatty acid GLA, which is great for skin health and hormone balancing. Omega-9 oleic acid, also in echium seed oil, is high in a Mediterranean-type diet and is otherwise found in olive oil. Echium seed oil contains twice as much omega-3 compared to its omega-6 and omega-9 content, therefore is considered to be anti-inflammatory, and can help to balance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Linseed oil

Linseeds are often the omega-3 of choice for vegetarians as they are the richest source of the short-chain fatty ALA, although in reality only around 5-8% of this is converted to EPA, so for vegetarians, you would have to consume huge amounts of linseed oil to obtain the anti-inflammatory effects. It is important to stress that it’s healthy to continue to include these fatty acids in your diet as the fibre and vitamins & minerals found in linseeds are particularly beneficial to health, so keep up with the ground linseeds sprinkled over your breakfast, but don’t rely on the oil to reduce inflammation in the body.

Algae oil

Algae oil is another interesting oil of choice for vegetarians, as algae are a direct source of food for fish. Algae oil contains the long-chain omega-3 DHA, and a very small amount of EPA. The high DHA to EPA ratio does not give great support for controlling inflammation in the body, as it is EPA required at the higher dose, and EPA and DHA also compete for enzymes in the body. High DHA from algae is, however, beneficial during pregnancy, as DHA is required for making the brain structure of an unborn foetus.

Other plant-source oils

Omega-3 can also be found in other plant oils such as hemp seed oil, chia seed oil and pumpkin seed oil; however, all of these oils contain the short-chain fatty acid ALA, which is therefore not converted as readily as the fatty acid SDA found in echium seed oil. Hemp, chia and pumpkin oil are also much higher in omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega 3, so the ratio is not as anti- inflammatory in the body.

For vegetarians and vegans, choosing an oil high in omega-3 SDA such as echium seed oil is likely to do wonders for your health, so consider this an option over other oils which may be more difficult to convert to EPA in the body.

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May is M.E. Awareness Month: Part 2

May is M.E. Awareness Month, aimed at promoting a greater understanding of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for patients, their families and healthcare practitioners. Part 1 looked at the most common symptoms of ME, along with common myths and misconceptions about this poorly understood disease. Part 2 presents five simple dietary guidelines for chronic fatigue suffers along with five supplements believed to help manage symptoms and improve their health and well-being.

In ‘Beating Chronic Fatigue’ Dr Kristina Downing Orr writes that many chronic fatigue sufferers have a dysregulation of blood-sugar levels (1). It is certainly true that poor blood sugar control can create symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness and emotional disturbances. It makes sense that managing blood sugar levels through smart dietary choices may be helpful. The following five guidelines should improve energy levels by regulating blood sugar throughout the day.

Eggs are a high source of lean protein and can easily be fitted into the diet

1. Include lean protein at every meal – chicken, game, fish, organic red meat, eggs, tofu, yoghurt, fresh nuts and seeds are good options.

2. Cut out alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee or cola.

3. Eliminate hidden sugars lurking in pre-packaged foods. Look out for ingredients such as dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, lactose, polydextrose, mannitol, sorbitol and maltodextin.

4. Eliminate refined grains that release sugar into the bloodstream quickly. These include corn flour, white rice, and white flour.

5. Aim for a balance of one third protein to two thirds ‘smart’ carbs at every meal. This means roughly a handful of protein to two handfuls of veggies.

Nutritional supplements are often used by those with CFS as they may help correct deficiencies, support the immune system and the liver, and support processes such as cellular energy-production. Here we look at five supplements commonly recommended by nutritional practitioners.

Vitamin B12
Some small studies have suggested a link between B12 supplementation and relief of symptoms, possibly because B12 improves the delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs. Vitamin B12 injections have been found to result in increased wellbeing in CFS patients when compared to placebo injections (2).

D-Ribose
A recent pilot study of 41 CFS patients found that D-ribose improved symptoms such as energy, sleep, mental clarity, pain intensity and well-being (3). In energy-depleted states, ribose levels tend to be low. Ribose increases cellular energy by raising levels of ATP (the body’s ‘fuel’) because ribose is a key component in these ‘energy molecules’. D-Ribose supplementation appears to be well tolerated. While the initial findings are promising, more research is needed in this area.

NADH
NADH (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is simply a reduced form of vitamin B3, and it is essential in maintaining sufficient levels of the fuel ATP. One good quality crossover RCT showed statistically significant effects of NADH (10 mg daily) on symptom scores when compared with placebo after 1 month of treatment (4).

Magnesium
The onset of CFS is linked to stress, and stress in turn is known to deplete levels of magnesium (5). Many CFS specialists believe that CFS patients have low intracellular magnesium levels, even when blood levels of magnesium appear to be normal. A randomised, double-blind controlled trial found that treatment with magnesium sulphate injections improved energy levels, emotional state, and pain scores in CFS patients (6).

Essential Fatty Acids
Researchers have suggested that patients with chronic fatigue have problems metabolising essential fatty acids, leading to problems with the immune system, nervous system and endocrine system. It may be that supplementation with fatty acids such as EPA and GLA improves symptoms by bypassing these ‘metabolic blocks’. Two randomised controlled trials have indeed found that essential fatty acid supplementation to be of benefit in CFS (7,8).

References

1. Beating Chronic Fatigue: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Complete Recovery. Dr Kristina Downing-Orr. London: Piatkus. 2010.

2. Ellis FR, Nasser S. A pilot study of vitamin B12 in the treatment of tiredness. Br J Nutr 1973;30:277-283.

3. Teitelbaum JE, Johnson C, St Cyr J (2006) The use of D-ribose in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia: a pilot study. Nov;12(9):857-62. J Altern Complement Med.

4. Forsyth LM, Preuss HG, MacDowell AL, Chiazze L Jr, Birkmayer GD, Bellanti JA. (1999) Therapeutic effects of oral NADH on the symptoms of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 82(2):185–191.

5. Werbach M (2000) Nutritional Strategies for Treating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Altern Med Rev 5(2):93-108.

6. Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. (1991) Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome.Lancet. 337(8744):757–760.

7. Behan PO, Behan WM, Horrobin D. (1990) Effect of high doses of essential fatty acids on the postviral fatigue syndrome.  Acta Neurol Scand. 82:209-216.

8. Warren G, McKendrick M, Peet M. The role of essential fatty acids in chronic fatigue syndrome: a case-controlled study of red-cell membrane essential fatty acids (EFA) and a placebo-controlled treatment study with high dose of EFA.  Acta Neurol Scand.1999;99:112-116.

9. Image courtesy of artur84.

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Beat the autumnal blues…

The nights are now well and truly drawing in and becoming colder and darker, so it’s common to feel low in mood.

Here are some helpful tips to keep you feeling upbeat:

Vitamin D
This sunshine vitamin has been getting more and more press coverage in recent months and it’s an important vitamin in supporting immunity amongst other things. Getting natural daylight is the best way to generate Vitamin D in your body; however in countries like the UK, the sun’s strength is not high enough between October and March to do this adequately. It’s important to eat foods containing vitamin D such as oily fish (mackerel, sardines etc), eggs, fortified breads and cereals. Supplementation is popular at this time of year with varying options of strengths (500iu – 5000iu) and types (tablets, capsules, sprays, sublingual) available. The UK Government now recommends that Vitamin D supplements should be taken by under 5′s, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, everyone over 65 and anyone who has little sun exposure.

Omega 3
Continuing with the importance of fish and omega 3′s, it has been shown that those with diets high in fish and omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have better moods. As well as other potential benefits such as improved skin quality, cardiovascular health and joint mobility.

Exercise is good for the mood
Exercise is good for helping to improve the mood during Autumn and Winter.

Natural Daylight
Balancing your circadian rhythm is important in balancing your mood and hormone levels. Try and get some natural daylight every day to avoid feeling low in energy and depressed – although it’s not easy if you work a in a 9-5 office environment. Go for a walk on your lunch break or offer to go to the shop for a colleague – any reason to get outside. Growing evidence also suggests sunshine can help protect against cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Having a SAD lightbox on your desk or at home can help beat the blues – opt for a lightbox with a 10,000 lux output from a respected manufacturer like Lumie or the Sad Lightbox Company.

Exercise
That lunch break walk suggested previously can have a double effect on your mood – gentle exercise can increase endorphins which are those “feel good factors” keeping your looking on the bright side of life. Green Exercise (i.e. not in a gym) has been found to have more significant improvements in mood.

5 HTP
This supplement is well known for its mood-boosting properties. If you feel you still need some support then this may be a good option. Speak to your GP or Health Practitioner first though, as it can interfere with other medications.

Written by Katie Guest

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Echium Seed Oil – Beauty from Within

Composed of several types of tissue, and functioning to protect the body from the everyday environmental barrage of abuse, the skin serves as our largest organ. The outer layer, known as the epidermis, is made up of a fibrous protein called keratin and numerous types of fat, including various omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Some of which are important for skin health and others not so. Though ‘biologically dead’ the epidermis remains active, with its fatty acid composition playing a key role in the health and appearance of the skin’s surface.

The skin lacks important enzymes to reconstruct omega-3 and omega-6 fats from food, so our skin’s makeup is a direct reflection of our diet. This may be good news if you eat plenty of oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados and avoid refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils. If your plate typically resembles Western diet patterns, your skin will likely contain an abundance of omega-6 fats such as linoleic acid (LA) and arachidonic acid (AA) – the latter being linked directly with inflammation and inflammatory-based skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.

Igennus Echiomega
Igennus Echiomega is made from echium seed oil and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Echium seed oil is a natural plant oil renowned for its unique profile of skin-supporting fatty acids. Especially rich in a rare form of omega-3 called stearidonic acid (SDA), as well as anti-inflammatory omega-6 GLA and omega-9, it provides the skin with an ideal balance of fats to regenerate cells and reduce inflammation.

Well known for its anti-ageing potential, echium seed oil is a popular ingredient in many skin creams and beauty products but only recently has it become available in supplement form to nourish the skin from within. Oral supplementation offers enhanced benefits over topical products (though a combination of both would offer synergistic benefits) due to more efficient absorption, enabling the beneficial fatty acids to be incorporated directly into skin cells to target inflammation beneath the skin’s surface.

Each Igennus Echiomega capsule provides 500mg echium seed oil, with just two capsules daily providing ideal levels for skincare. Offered in a capsule shell derived from seaweed, Echiomega is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Written by Dr Nina Bailey from Igennus Healthcare Nutrition

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An introduction to Igennus

Igennus – Where It All Began…

It’s not always easy to see the positive during a crisis – let alone an opportunity – but this was exactly how the seed of an idea for a specialist nutrition business was planted in the mind of Igennus Healthcare Nutrition’s Founder and CEO, Dr Jav Nazemi.

In 1998, Jav’s family experienced a health scare with their youngest daughter, who was diagnosed with a rare heart condition. This left her with a damaged and narrowed heart valve, which caused blood clots that subsequently caused blind spots in her vision.

Not wanting to rely on lifelong prescriptions of penicillin and aspirin, the family avidly researched how good diet and nutrition could help to manage their daughter’s condition. Jav spoke to Hammersmith clinician Professor Basant Puri (an eminent researcher, author and proponent of nutritional medicine) for advice. Professor Basant was doing research on Fish Oils and getting remarkable results. This was the start of a journey that led to the formation of Igennus Healthcare Nutrition – a company founded on the principles of holistic health and nutritional science.

The  Igennus Family of Products

E-EPA 90E-EPA 90 - Restore Wellbeing – Step 1

E-EPA 90 is the purest ethyl-EPA concentrate available without prescription, suitable for counteracting omega-3 deficiencies and restoring a healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Research suggests that EPA plays an important role in supporting optimum brain function, including attention, concentration and emotional wellbeing.

Vegepa E-Epa 70Vegepa E-EPA 70 - Maintain Wellbeing – Step 2

Vegepa combines the benefits of 70% ethyl-EPA concentrate extracted from marine anchovy oil with GLA and triterpene antioxidants from organic virgin evening primrose oil. This unique formulation balances and maintains healthy omega-3 and omega-6 levels, providing cells with essential nutrients to support efficient brain function and emotional wellbeing.

Vegepa ChewablesVegepa E-EPA 70 Orange Chewables - From Age 3+

Vegepa Chewables combine the benefits of 70% ethyl-EPA concentrate extracted from marine anchovy oil with GLA and triterpene antioxidants from organic virgin evening primrose oil. This unique formulation balances and maintains healthy omega-3 and omega-6 levels, providing cells with essential nutrients to support brain function, including attention and concentration. These child-friendly capsules are sugar-free, sweetened with natural xylitol and flavoured with sweet orange oil.

EchiomegaEchiomega – Suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans

Echiomega Echium Seed Oil (sourced from Echium plantagineum) provides the richest natural source of the omega-3 SDA, offering support for cardiovascular health and eye function, maintaining anti-inflammatory and immune response, and promoting healthy skin.  Echium Seed Oil offers the highest rate of conversion of any plant-derived omega-rich oil to the important long-chain fatty acid EPA, making Echiomega an ideal supplement for vegetarians and vegans.

Omegaflex DuoOmegaFlex Duo - Replenish & Repair joints and bones

Omegaflex DUO is an advanced multi-action formula for the joints and bones, combining the powerful natural anti-inflammatory properties of ethyl-EPA and GLA with the tissue-restoring properties of glucosamine & bioavailable calcium, vitamins C & D3 and minerals.  These vital nutrients nourish the synovial fluid, support collagen synthesis and form the building blocks for cartilage and bone tissue renewal, as well as offering direct anti-inflammatory support. These natural and synergistic ingredients are highly bioavailable – using a special form of hypoallergenic glucosamine (non-shellfish-derived) and ‘pre-digested’ algae-derived calcium for optimum absorption and utilisation in the body.

Commitment to efficacy, quality and sustainability

Igennus has carved out a specialist expertise in the area of polyunsaturated fatty acids and its relevance to a wide range of health concerns. From the very beginning, Igennus has pioneered the use of pure EPA for preventative and restorative health. Igennus’ lead product Vegepa E-EPA 70 now has a dedicated and loyal following, with thousands of customers taking daily doses of pure EPA for inflammatory conditions and ailments ranging from CFS, psoriasis, arthritis and diabetes to depression, ADHD and schizophrenia.

Research and development are central to the innovation of Igennus’ specialist EPA supplements, which are developed in association with nutrition scientists and independent researchers and clinicians. The provision of efficacious supplements and a relentless focus on quality and safety are key – a company-wide commitment that influences choice of suppliers, raw materials, packaging facilities and even testing labs. All products are independently batch-tested to guarantee safety and are certified free from heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins. Igennus EPA is sourced from sustainable marine anchovies, with minimal impact on biodiversity.

Igennus won’t compromise on using natural ingredients, and avoid artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and sweeteners at all costs – a commitment that has its challenges, but something Igennus is committed to for the long term.

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Omega-3 supplements buffer the effect of mental stress

Mental stress is known to have a negative effect on heart health, and unmanaged stress is linked with increased blood pressure, an important predictor of heart disease. Managing mental stress can be a huge help to those looking to support their cardiovascular health. Of course this is often easier said than done. After all, stress is a part of everyday life and it cannot be eliminated entirely.

However, managing our physical reaction to mental stress may be one way to support heart health.

High EPA
Omega 3 supplements high in EPA can be good for mental stress and heart health

With this in mind, a team of researchers at Alleghany College in the US recently investigated the effects of an omega-3 supplement on the effect of mental stress in adults. The team gave a group of 43 college students either a daily omega-3 supplement or a daily placebo supplement for three weeks. They then measured blood pressure and heart rate of the students at rest and during a mental arithmetic task. The stress response to the maths test in the omega-3 group was found to be significantly lower than that of those in the placebo group.

The authors concluded that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce cardiovascular reactivity to stress.
The study is preliminary and will hopefully encourage further research to clarify the role of omega-3 in cardiovascular health.

The supplement used in the study provided a daily dose of 1400mg omega-3 (1000mg EPA and 400mg DHA). This intake is fairly normal for adults living in countries such as Japan where fish, seafood and tofu are a major part of the diet. In the UK, however, the level of omega-3 in the diet is far lower and is estimated at an average of 244mg daily.

Options for increasing EPA and DHA intakes include use of fish oil supplements, increased consumption of fish or consumption of foods enriched with omega 3 such as omega-3 enriched eggs.

Those considering taking fish oil supplements should first check with their GP, especially if they are taking medications such as anticoagulants. Also, be sure to choose a good quality oil that has been screened for contaminants. Finally, if your fish oil supplement leaves you with a fishy aftertaste this is a sign that the oil has oxidised (‘gone off’). I tend to favour omega-3 oils that can be taken straight from the spoon, such as the Eskimo brand, so that I can be sure on tasting that it is a good quality, fresh oil.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
Ginty AT, Conklin SM. Preliminary Evidence that Acute Long-Chain Omega-3 Supplementation Reduces Cardiovascular Reactivity to Mental Stress: A Randomized and Placebo Controlled Trial. Biol Psychol. 2012, Jan. 89(1):269-72.

 

 

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The health benefits of coconut oil

Coconut oil has recently become increasingly prevalent both in the media and in current research which has found that many of its contents can be extremely beneficial to health.  For example, one recent study (1) published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine this year reported on its vast medicinal aspects, as it has been found to be antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, antioxidant, immunostimulant (supports the immune system), and the list goes on.

The health benefits of coconut oil
Current research has found that coconut oil can be extremely beneficial to health. (8)

Additionally, another study (2) comments on previous research reporting on the many health benefits of coconut oil. These include preventing illnesses and diseases, such as reducing the risk of heart disease, aiding digestion and helping to keep skin elastic and silky, keeping wrinkles at bay.  This can be attributed to its numerous nutrient contents including being rich in medium chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid which has shown to inhibit harmful elements (pathogens) within the body which can help to slow the effects of ageing (3).  This study (3) also found that virgin coconut oil had greater antioxidant activity than the refined oil and another study (4) suggested that coconut oil intake is associated with beneficial lipid profiles which promotes healthy cholesterol levels due to its high density lipoprotein content.  An all round health booster!

Also, you may have seen the recent article in the Daily Mail (5) that reports on the use of coconut oil by supermodel Miranda Kerr (wife of actor Orlando Bloom), where she is quoted as saying that she credited her glowing clear skin and shiny hair to the oil.  One study (6) also reported on the oils beneficial effects to the skin saying that it had shown to have antimicrobial effects on fungi and viruses which can inhabit atopic dermatitis.  In this study, published in 2008 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, patients topically treated with virgin coconut oil (by rubbing the oil into their skin) reported significantly reduced scores for dryness and related conditions.  Therefore you may find some relief from rubbing this oil into your dry spots on your elbows, knees and ankles or even see if this helps with sunburn or any other problem skin areas.

Also, another study (7) identified the superior effects of coconut oil when applied (topically) to hair before conditioning compared to mineral oil and other vegetable oils such as sunflower oil. They reported protective effects to both undamaged and chemically treated hair.  They attributed this effect to the ability of coconut oil to access the hair cuticle and lubricate it, which reduces water retention and swelling.  You may also find that coconut oil can help with split ends.

So as well as being a healthy oil when consumed on salads, used as a cooking oil or even a spoonful in your green tea just like Miranda Kerr, you can also benefit from using this oil topically on skin and hair.

P.S.  A top tip may be to rub some into your shoes to soften them which may prevent any irritation they may cause you, as well as making your feet smell like coconuts!

Written by Lauren Foster

 

References

(1) DebMandal, M. & Mandal, S. (2011) Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Arecaceae): In health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine, 241-247.

 (2) Arenillo, S.A (2008) Yield and Quality of Virgin Coconut Oil Using Varieties of Coconuts. Liceo Journal of Higher Education Research, Vol. 5, No. 2, 190-198.

 (3) Marina, A.M., Che Man, Y.B. & Amin, I.(2009) Virgin coconut oil: emerging functional food oil. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 20, 481-487.

 (4) Feranil, A.B., Duazo, P.L., Kuzawa, C.W., Adair, L.S. (2011) Coconut oil is associated with a beneficial lipid profile in pre-menopausal women in the Philippines. Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20, (2):190-195.

 (5) Daily Mail (2011) Victoria’s Secret? Coconut oil… Sales boom as model Miranda Kerr reveals daily dose of ‘healthy fat’ is key to her beauty. Mail Online. (Online):   (Accessed 5/9/2011).

 (6) Verallo-Rowell, V.M., Dillague, K.M., Syah-Tjundawan, B.S. (2008) Novel Antibacterial and Emollient Effects of Coconut and Virgin Olive Oils: Methods, Dermatitis, 19(6):308-15.

 (7) Rele, A.S. & Mohile, R.B. (2003) Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 54(2):175-92.

(8) Image courtesy of pixomar.

 

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