Category Archives: DHA

Wiley’s Finest: Super Fats!

EPA/DHA Counts!

Not all fats are the same, and it pays to know the difference.

After decades of demonising fats in the diet, the latest headlines report “fat is good for you!” But the devil is the detail and it matters which type of fat you choose to consume. There are good, bad and ugly fats in the diet and having the knowledge to make wise food choices can delay or even prevent, the onset of a myriad of diseases from head to toe and from cradle to grave.

Most people eat too much processed fat- found in hydrogenated margarines, convenience, fast and fried foods and in intensively reared animal products. These foods are eaten in abundance and overload the body with trans-fats and omega-6 fats. The historical harmful onus that has been planted on saturated fats from meat and dairy, being linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, is currently under question. Eminent researcher Hibbeln points out that the over consumption of vegetable oils rich in omega-6 may bear the blame.

Commercial vegetable oils such as soya, corn, groundnut, sunflower and all foods and margarines containing them are flooding our plates. These oils are abundant in omega-6, which converts to the biochemical AA* and triggers pain, blood clotting and inflammation if intakes become too high. Consequently, the population rely on COX inhibitors- such as aspirin and ibuprofen- drugs which block the conversion of AA to keep the blood thin and pain at bay. Furthermore, the polyunsaturated omega-6 fats are more prone to ‘rusting’ up in the blood stream than saturated fats, causing damage that leads to the buildup of arterial plaques.

Time for an Oil Change!

The focus here is to increase intakes of the healthful omega-3 fats, particularly EPA and DHA* which are found only in seafood. The specific chemical and physical nature of these marine oils bestow unique biological structure and function and are critically concentrated in the brain and eyes.

Smart Fats – Seafood DHA and EPA

Seafood DHA and EPA are the gift of vision and award intelligence. The retina of the eye contains a higher level of DHA than any other tissue.

Research supports the role of the remarkable ‘Super Fats EPA and DHA’ to have beneficial effects in all parts of the body, especially in brain. Diets high in fish are strongly correlated with freedom from depression, postpartum depression, aggression, psychosis and cardiovascular disease. Further research supports childhood neurodevelopment including visual functions, learning ability, mood, despondency, anxiety, sleep and behavioural disorders.

Importantly, EPA converts to bioactive substances that reduce the the propensity of the blood to clot and curbs pain and inflammation, circumventing the need for drug therapy.
Some plant oils contain omega-3 ALA*, rich in flaxseed and hemp, with lower amounts in walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Most diets are deficient in omega-3, since most people do not eat enough oily fish or flaxseeds.

Marine oils EPA and DHA are more biologically active that plant omega-3 ALA. Too much omega-6 blocks and overwhelms the health promoting aspects of omega-3, so it is a good idea to cut down the intake of omega-6s, whilst increasing the intake of omega-3s.

Fish Oil Supplements “The Professional’s Choice”

Wileys Making an educated choice about which omega-3 supplements you choose:
A favourite product is ‘Wiley’s Finest Peak Omega-3 Liquid’, which provides 2.150mg EPA/DHA per 5ml dose. Babi Chana BSc (HONS) BSc Nut.Med BANT. CHNC believes this product is the professional’s choice, since it gives a therapeutic amount of EPA/DHA to be effective and efficient to correct imbalances and deficiencies of dietary fat intakes.
Furthermore, Wiley’s Finest fresh fish oil is produced in Alaska from wild Pollock caught in US waters. The oil is then purified and gently concentrated up to 75% Omega-3 to make a mini softgel – 55% smaller than regular strength fish oil, yet with 30% more Omega – Wiley’s actually excel in sustainability, use recycled packaging and make biodiesel from the leftover fats…and it’s affordable!

*Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid.
Alphalinoleic Acid. Arachidonic Acid

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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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Vegans respond well to algae-based omega-3 supplements

Omega-3 levels in vegans are low and can successfully be addressed with algae-based omega-3 supplements according to a new study (1).

The study of 165 vegans found that their omega-3 index was just 3.7%, which is too low and indicates a raised risk for heart disease.

The ‘omega-3 index’ is a measure of omega-3 in cell membranes. A level below 4% represents a high risk of developing heart disease, while a level of above 8% is considered low risk (2).

A selection of the group were supplemented with 243mg of algae-derived EPA + DHA each day for four months. During this time, the omega-3 index of this group rose from 3.1% to 4.8%. The researchers concluded that “low dose supplementation with algae-sourced DHA and EPA may mitigate the potential adverse effects of deficiency in this population.”

The recommended intake of omega-3 is 450mg per day, according to the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Unfortunately in the UK the average intake is around half this amount, at just 250mg per day.

Incidentally, the level of omega-3 found in vegans in this study is actually no lower than that found in omnivores. This population-wide deficiency in omega-3 is a concern, especially considering the range of health benefits linked with this particular fat. In addition to its cardio-protective benefits, omega-3 has been linked with eye health, brain health and a healthy immune system.

An important consideration for those wanting to boost their omega-3 intake is the danger of toxins. The richest source of omega-3 is oily fish, but unfortunately these fish have a tendency to accumulate mercury and other toxic pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs. For this reason, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised not to eat more than two servings of oily fish each week.

fish_oil
Omega-3 levels in vegans are low and can successfully be addressed with algae-based omega-3

Because mercury tends to accumulate in protein rather than fat, fish oil supplements can provide a ‘cleaner’ way to obtain your daily omega-3. For this reason, supplements do not pose the same concerns over mercury ingestion as oily fish in the diet.

Dioxins and PCBs are rather a different story. These contaminants tend to accumulate in fat, and so are present not only in oily fish, but also in poor quality fish oil and algae-based supplements. For this reason it is essential to choose a very good-quality supplement. For example, Eskimo-3 was found to contain the lowest levels of dioxins and PCBs in independent testing. Products from Biocare and Higher Nature also performed well. To illustrate the variability in quality, the same study found that the level of contaminants in Boots Cod Liver Oil was more than 50 times greater than that found in Eskimo-3. Dioxin levels in Tesco’s Cod Liver Oil were also well above the maximum limit for fish oils intended for human consumption (3).

Good quality vegan supplements represent a clean way of supporting omega-3 levels, as algae can quite easily be grown in controlled, unpolluted conditions. This is the case for supplements such as opti3, which is made from algae grown in a fully-controlled pharmaceutical facility. This particular supplement is therefore recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women owing to its clean profile.

In light of the above study results, vegans wanting to ensure healthy levels of omega-3 would certainly do well to consider such a supplement. Even those of us who aren’t vegan or vegetarian might consider algae-based supplements as a sustainable and pure source of omega-3.

References

1. Sarter B et al (2014) Blood docosahaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in vegans: Association with age and gender and effects of an algal-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Clinical Nutrition. March 2014.

2. Harris WS (2008) The omega-3 index as a risk factor for coronary heart disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87: 6 1997S-2002S

3. FSAI (2002) Dioxins, Furans and PCBs in Farmed and Wild Salmon, Farmed Trout and Fish Oil Capsules. http://www.fsai.ie

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