Good levels of omega 3 essential fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA are required for our brain, eyes, immune system, heart, skin, cognition and nervous system. Omega 3 forms part of the cell structure which explains why it’s so integral to so many systems in the body. We can get these fats from the foods we eat and from sourcing the best quality supplements.
Here are Wild Nutrition’s top 3 benefits of omega 3:
1. Keeps omega 3:6 in balance
In the western diet we often get more omega 6 than omega 3, which can disrupt our omega 3:6 ratio. This means our need for it goes up as it’s important to keep these two essential fats in balance to help prevent inflammation. Eating wild caught oily fish can be helpful or alternatively you can supplement with a fish oil to keep your omega 3 within a healthy range.
2. There is no need for conversion
Many people consume flax, chia and hemp and assume they are getting enough omega 3. However, these plant based foods contain the precursor to omega 3 called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The body has to convert ALA to omega 3 but unfortunately the conversion rate can be quite low in humans. This conversion is also reliant on iron and zinc so these nutrients must not be deficient. Taking a high quality fish oil that contains omega 3 which has already been converted in the body of the fish, means it is therefore readily available for the human body to use.
3. Prepares the body to conceive
Omega 3 is very important if you are preparing to or trying to conceive for both the man and the woman. It plays a central role in sperm formation, having a positive effect on fertility. The foetus, young infant and growing child need omega 3 just like their parents as EFAs (essential fatty acids) are very important for brain development. The human brain is around 60% fat with DHA found predominantly in the grey matter, which includes areas of the brain responsible for sensory perception and intelligence.
Wild Nutrition have recently launched a new easy-to-swallow Pure Strength Omega 3 with small capsules, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified Alaskan Pollock and a ratio of EPA to DHA that is naturally found in these fish.
Nutrition can have a huge impact on mood, by providing the brain with the right building blocks for the structure of the brain, as well as supporting production of mood-enhancing brain chemical messengers such as serotonin. The brain requires an array of vitamins and minerals to support cell structure and enzyme processes, so it’s no surprise that nutrition has such a strong effect on mood.
For this reason, Igennus have formulated four targeted MindCare® supplements offering all-in-1 advanced brain nutrition to transform how you feel.
Key nutrients for enhancing mood
Omega-3 EPA and DHA
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are possibly the most well known and beneficial nutrients for supporting brain function and mood. A diet naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids from seafood effectively boosts mood and also correlates with reduced levels of bipolar disorder, helping to stabilise mood. (1)
A deficiency of omega-3 can result in an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, resulting in excess inflammation in the body. Low levels of omega-3 EPA not only induces a state of inflammation in the brain, but can also lead to destruction of serotonin (2), the chemical messenger in the brain responsible for giving us feelings of happiness. It is not surprising, then, that a state of chronic inflammation coupled with imbalanced omega fatty acids is associated with depression. (3,4)
It is important to note that not all omega-3 fatty acids are equal as they have very different roles in the brain: to improve your mood you should concentrate on the active omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA, in particular, plays a key role in controlling inflammation in the brain, protecting against damage and promoting transmission of messages in the brain, helping us to feel balanced and happy. Omega-3 DHA is required for structure of the brain due to its presence in cell membranes.
In an ideal world, we would all be eating plenty of oily fish, but this is certainly not the case. If oily fish is not regularly consumed in the diet, a concentrated EPA and DHA supplement may help to boost mood.
When it comes to choosing a fish oil, concentration and dose will determine how effective they are for supporting mood. A standard fish oil capsule, for example, only provides 30% of the active ingredients EPA and DHA, whereas ideally you want at least 70% concentration EPA and DHA to achieve full benefits of a therapeutic dose.
A supplement providing EPA and DHA at a ratio of 2:1, or over 60% EPA, is considered ideal for depression, as these levels have been shown to significantly reduce depressive symptoms. (5;6) For general mood support, look for a supplement providing at least 400mg EPA and 250mg DHA.
Low mood is often a side effect of too much stress on the body, both mentally and physically; correct nutrition can help your body deal with stress efficiently, so look seriously at your diet. Antioxidants are found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and have the ability to mop up damaging free radicals, thereby protecting the brain against oxidative damage. Concentrate on vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium for their powerful antioxidant effects and ability to recycle other antioxidants in the body.
B vitamins are essential for the functioning of many enzyme processes in the body, particularly those required to produce brain chemical messengers. Feed your enzymes with B vitamins, particularly B6, and your production of serotonin may be improved, helping you to feel happier. Requirements for B vitamins are also increased when you are stressed as the body will be using up significant amounts. If stress is associated with your low mood, B vitamins may be very effective at helping to lift you out of it. B vitamin supplements have been shown to significantly improve dejected mood, reducing stress. (7)
We have all heard of SAD (seasonal affective disorder), or at least we can empathise with those who suffer from mild depression during the gloomy winter months. As we get most of our vitamin D from skin exposure to the sun, it is no surprise that vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and depression, with lowest vitamin D levels correlating with severe depression. (8) Consider supplementing with vitamin D, particularly in the months October to March.
If your nutrition is generally spot on, and your brain is functioning clearly, to really lift your mood, you could also try adding a 5-HTP supplement to your regime. 5-HTP converts directly to serotonin in the body, helping to boost your mood. A dose of 100mg is ideal for its effects.
Noaghiul S, Hibbeln JR. Cross-national comparisons of seafood consumption and rates of bipolar disorders. Am J Psychiatry 2003 Dec; 160(12):2222-7.
Wichers MC, Maes M. The role of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) in the pathophysiology of interferon-alpha-induced depression. J Psychiatry Neurosci 2004 Jan; 29(1):11-7.
Conklin SM, Manuck SB, Yao JK, Flory JD, Hibbeln JR, Muldoon MF. High omega-6 and low omega-3 fatty acids are associated with depressive symptoms and neuroticism. Psychosom Med 2007 Dec; 69(9):932-4.
Pottala JV, Talley JA, Churchill SW, Lynch DA, von SC, Harris WS. Red blood cell fatty acids are associated with depression in a case-control study of adolescents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2012 Apr; 86(4-5):161-5.
Rondanelli M, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, Pelucchi C, La VC, Montorfano G, et al. Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on depressive symptoms and on health-related quality of life in the treatment of elderly women with depression: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. J Am Coll Nutr 2010 Feb; 29(1):55-64.
Sublette ME, Ellis SP, Geant AL, Mann JJ. Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression. J Clin Psychiatry 2011 Dec; 72(12):1577-84.
Stough C, Scholey A, Lloyd J, Spong J, Myers S, Downey LA. The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol 2011 Oct; 26(7):470-6.
Milaneschi Y, Hoogendijk W, Lips P, Heijboer AC, Schoevers R, van Hemert AM, et al. The association between low vitamin D and depressive disorders. Mol Psychiatry 2014 Apr; 19(4):444-51.
Most people will experience problems sleeping at some point in their life and it is thought that around a third of Brits suffer with chronic insomnia.
Many things can contribute to a sleepless night – stress, diet, environment and lifestyle factors – but when we do find ourselves tossing and turning into the small hours of the night, it can be all too tempting to reach for the sleeping pills – but a report published by a leading mental health charity suggested that Britain has become a nation of ‘sleeping pill addicts’.
Reduce your risk of becoming addicted to these pills and try something natural instead, such as Sun Chlorella. Research from across the globe has suggested that some whole foods may improve sleep quality by up to 42% . So before you pop those prescription pills, take a look at these tips from Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist Nikki Hillis who has shared some of her favourite foods to help you achieve a longer, deeper sleep.
It might seem bizarre but an algae supplement such as Sun Chlorella® is rich in chlorophyll that contains high amounts of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids, all essential nutrients for quality sleep.
A recent study by Oxford University showed that the participants on a course of daily supplements of omega-3 had nearly one hour more sleep and seven fewer waking episodes per night compared with the participants taking the placebo.
Furthermore, the tryptophan found in chlorella is a sleep-enhancing amino acid used by the brain to produce neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin that help you relax and go to sleep. While young people have the highest melatonin levels, production of this hormone wanes as we age. Calcium and magnesium relax the body and B vitamins are essential for stress relief.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds and sesame seeds are rich in magnesium and calcium – two minerals that help promote sleep. Walnuts are also a good source of tryptophan. The unsaturated fats found in nuts improve your serotonin levels, and the protein in the nuts help maintain a stable blood sugar level to prevent you waking in the night. 100 grams of sesame seeds boasts over 1000 micrograms of tryptophan. The same amount of chia seeds have over 700 mgs of tryptophan, while pumpkin seeds have almost 600 mg.
3. Herbal teas (such as Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian, Lavender, Lemongrass)
Valerian is one of the most common sleep remedies for insomnia. Numerous studies have found that valerian improves deep sleep, speed of falling asleep, and overall quality of sleep. Lemongrass’ calming properties have been long revered to ward off nightmares while chamomile tea is used regularly worldwide for insomnia, irritability, and restlessness.
4. Kiwi Fruit
Research suggests that eating kiwi fruit may have significant benefits for sleep due to its high antioxidant and serotonin levels. Researchers at Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University studied the effects of kiwi consumption on sleep and found that eating kiwi on a daily basis was linked to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and sleep quantity. After 4 weeks of kiwi consumption, researchers found that the amount of time it takes to fall asleep after going to bed decreased by 35.4%, the amount of time spent in periods of wakefulness after initially falling asleep fell 28.9% and the total time spent asleep among the volunteers increased by 13.4%.
Honey promotes a truly deep and restorative sleep. If you take a teaspoon or two of honey before bed, you’ll be re-stocking your liver with glycogen so that your brain doesn’t activate a stress response, which often occurs when glycogen is low. Honey also contributes to the release of melatonin in the brain, as it leads to a slight spike in insulin levels and the release of tryptophan in the brain.
6. Sun Chlorella Sound Asleep Smoothie
Smoothies are a popular and satisfying breakfast but we rarely associate them with bedtime. Here, Sun Chlorella Holistic Nutritionist – Nikki Hillis – shares her ‘Sound Asleep, Sun Chlorella Smoothie’ packed with tasty ingredients to help you nod off and enjoy a restful kip.
March 16th sees the beginning of Brain Awareness Week, a global campaign to increase awareness of the benefits of brain research. In the UK, we are living longer. This means that more and more people will be affected by diminished brain function and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Taking measures to age-proof your brain has never been more important. Read on to discover the 3 most important brain nutrients.
More than half of your brain is made of fat. The most important fat to ‘feed’ your brain is DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. DHA helps to keep the membrane of each brain cell flexible, so that it can function and communicate quickly and efficiently (1).
If your diet is heavy in saturated fats and trans fats from processed foods, on the other hand, then these types of fats will be used in your brain cells, making then rigid and slow to communicate.
Good sources of DHA include low-mercury oily fish such as wild-caught Atlantic salmon, fresh water trout, herring, anchovies and sardines. If you don’t eat these foods regularly then you may benefit from a regular fish oil supplement, or a vegan omega-3 supplement containing DHA.
Every time a cell makes energy, it produces damaging waste substances called free radicals. These substances have a tendency to bind with other healthy cells, causing damage called oxidation. In this way, our organs and tissues, including the brain, are constantly under attack.
When free radicals attack your brain, they can prevent the brain from producing energy, which in turn causes fatigue, and can even affect memory, mood and coordination (2).
A systematic review published just last year found evidence for the benefit of antioxidant nutrients in the prevention of cognitive decline. The strongest evidence was in support of the antioxidant mineral selenium as well as vitamins C, E and carotenes (3). These antioxidants were found to slow age-related decline in cognition, attention and psychomotor speed (the ability to coordinate fast thinking with doing something quickly, for example in driving a car
or following a conversation).
There is growing evidence that B Vitamins – in particular folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12 – play a critical role in protecting the brain from the effects of ageing. B vitamins help to protect the brain by lowering levels of homocysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid that is ‘neurotoxic, and therefore linked to damage in the brain. In studies, levels of homocysteine in the blood have been linked with memory problems and difficulty processing information, as well as age-related cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s (4).
A recent randomised controlled trial of 260 elderly people found that a daily B-vitamin supplement reduced levels of homocysteine by 30%, and improved test scores in both cognition and memory (5).
Folic acid and vitamin B6 are present in leafy green, beans, nuts and seeds, while B12 is present in fish, milk, eggs and meat. Unfortunately our
absorption of Vitamin B12 becomes less efficient as we age, and so for some people a supplement may be a sensible measure.
Brain function can in fact start declining as early as age 45, a condition labelled ‘age related cognitive decline.’ (6). By looking after our health and nutrient status in middle age, we can ‘age-proof’ our brain to help ensure a sharp mind and independent lifestyle in later years.
Cole GM, Frautschy SA. DHA may prevent age-related dementia. J Nutr. 2010 Apr;140(4):869-74.
Poon HF et al (2004) Free radicals and brain aging. Clin Geriatr Med. 20(2):329-59
Rafnsson SB et al (2013) Antioxidant nutrients and age-related cognitive decline: a systematic review of population-based cohort studies. Eur J Nutr 52(6): 1553-67
Sachdev (2005) Homocysteine and brain atrophy. 29(7):1152-61
de Jager et al (2011) Cognitive and clinical outcomes of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamin treatment in milkd cognitice impairment: a randomised controlled trial. Int J Geriat Psych. 26(6):592-600
Singh-Manous A et al (2012) Timing of onset of cognitive decline: results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal. 344:d7622
It can be difficult getting your kid’s into a back to school mind-set after the summer holidays, so why not prepare them in advance by boosting the mental and physical performance of your little one with a diet packed with vitamins and nutrients and regular exercise over the next 6 weeks.
Follow our checklist to help you give your child a head start of their next school year:
Its summer so make sure your little one gets a small dose of vitamin D courtesy of the sun (all fair-skinned people need is a few minutes of sun on their hands, arms and face every day). However, if the sun isn’t shining, then be sure to include it in their diet through fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, and egg yolks.
Children need calcium to make strong bones, but they can only deposit this calcium until their early 20s. Make sure yours get their three servings a day – a serve is a 250ml glass of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt or two slice of cheese (40g).
Poor concentration, failing memory, hyperactivity and mood swings can also be an indication of omega 3 (EPA and DHA) deficiency. Our brains need these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for brain structure and function. Try supplementing your child’s diet with a kid friendly omega 3 supplement.
Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet preventable cause of brain damage and lower IQs according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Make sure your child gets between 90mcg and 120mcg a day. Yoghurt, cow’s milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese and strawberries are excellent sources of iodine.
Magnesium de¬ficiency has been linked with learning difficulties, hyperactivity and insomnia and it’s believed three quarters of children don’t consume enough of this mineral. A half-cup of cooked frozen spinach provides 75mg. You should aim to include 130mg a day.
More Top Tips
Exercise, chill time, and regular, nourishing meals and snacks enhance concentration by banishing energy wobbles.
Friendly foods include fresh fish, vegetables, pulses, whole grain carbohydrates, nuts, and seeds. Water helps too!
Cerebral zappers include sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, junk food, processed foods, excess salt, meat and dairy, and refined or hydrogenated fats and oils (be sure to read the labels!).
We all need sleep to function properly, but while adults need eight hours, children need a minimum of 10 hours shut-eye every night. Encourage regular exercise during the day, and participation in age appropriate extracurricular activities after school which will both result in adequate sleep at night.
Make sure your child is protected against colds with a drink of Manuka Honey and fresh lemon juice in hot water. Echinacea will also support the immune system, prevent infections, and minimise the risk of bronchitis and sinusitis.
Making the decision to have children may sometimes be easier than getting pregnant. There are many potential causes of infertility, with fertility problems affecting either the man or the woman. Common causes of infertility in women include lack of regular ovulation and endometriosis, and in men the most common cause is poor quality of semen.
Optimum nutrition is absolutely vital for conception and food supplements are useful where an additional intake of specific nutrients is required. AnteNatal Forte provides a combination of nutrients designed to support a woman throughout conception and pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. It is free from vitamin A for those wishing to avoid it, but supplies beta carotene which the body can convert to vitamin A as required. It contains zinc to support normal fertility and reproduction, vitamin B6 which contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity, and folic acid which contributes to normal maternal tissue growth during pregnancy.
ASC Plus provides a combination of synergistic nutrients to support male fertility, including L-arginine, vitamin E, L-taurine, L-Carnitine, zinc and selenium. Zinc supports normal fertility and reproduction, whilst selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis – the process in which sperm is produced.
Assuming normal fertility, the next challenge is pregnancy, where there are significant biological changes which occur including an increased demand for nutrients such as vitamin D, B12, folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
A healthy baby begins with a healthy mum – eating a well-balanced and varied diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses and fish will help to provide the nutrients that you and your baby need. Where an additional intake of nutrients is required, a specific pregnancy supplement can be useful. Pregnancy & Lactation Formula is designed to offer comprehensive nutritional support to women during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It includes folic acid at recommended levels along with vitamin B12, iron, zinc and vitamin A at a level considered safe in pregnancy. It’s also important to avoid harmful habits such as smoking and excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption to help reduce the risk of any pregnancy complications.
Pregnancy and omega-3 – a clever combination for baby’s brain…
NHS recommendations suggest that eating fish during pregnancy is beneficial to your health as well as the development of your baby. However it is suggested that you should avoid consuming more than 2 portions of oily fish per week as it may contain pollutants. Omega-3 fatty acids provide EPA and DHA – maternal intake of DHA has been shown to contribute to normal brain and eye development of the foetus and breastfed infants, making its intake rather important.
Mega EPA is a naturally concentrated fish oil of outstanding quality and high potency. Each capsule provides omega-3 fatty acids in a natural triglyceride form, perfect for everyday use. It is of outstanding purity and free from detectable contaminants, so can safely be used during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
Arrival of the newborn
Some expectant mothers choose to take probiotics throughout their pregnancy, as well as give them to their newborn baby. AnteNatal BioFlora is a clinically proven probiotic for pregnant women containing LAB4B – a specific and clinically proven blend of probiotic bacteria. It has been designed to be used particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy, and provides a guaranteed 10 billion live bacteria per daily intake. Baby BioFlora is an easy-to-use powder and contains the same specialist blend of LAB4B probiotics as AnteNatal BioFlora with the addition of G.O.S (galactooligosaccharide) which is found in high concentrations within breast milk. It is suitable to be given to babies from birth and can be used to help establish intestinal microflora in newborns up to 12 months.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Collectively, conditions affecting the heart are the UK’s biggest killer. Almost 2.3 million people live with coronary heart disease (CHD), leading to annual NHS healthcare costs of almost £2 billion. Key risk factors for heart disease affect large proportions of the adult population – one third of adults have high blood pressure while 60% have sub-optimal blood cholesterol levels. Despite these alarming figures, many risk factors are within our control and making simple changes to our diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on our health. As we mark National Heart month we turn our attention to key nutrients and nutrition supplements that play a strong role in maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a type of omega-3 essential fatty acid (or ‘good’ polyunsaturated fat) that has been shown over years of research to help maintain normal cholesterol levels. Although cholesterol is a vital resource in the body, helping to carry out a number of important functions such as repairing blood vessels, creating hormones, production of vitamin D, and helping to transport vitamins A, D, E & K, it can become a risk when levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol become too high. This can trigger a build-up of plaque in the arteries, which can eventually
lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Dual cholesterol protection
Despite popular belief, only 20% of the cholesterol in our body comes from our diet whereas the majority, the remaining 80%, is produced by our own cells, mainly in the liver. ALA directly reduces production of cholesterol in the liver at its source, which is a highly effective way of normalising cholesterol levels.
ALA is also well known for reducing inflammation in the body, which helps to slow down plaque build-up in the arteries. Taking ALA daily is a great way to favourably balance the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ fats consumed in the diet.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring enzyme with a multitude of roles in the cardiovascular system. CoQ10 acts within our cells in the mitochondria, the body’s energy ‘powerhouse’. Maintaining healthy CoQ10 levels fuels the mitochondria and supports the high energy requirements of our organs, particularly the heart. In addition to energy production, CoQ10 plays a vital role in oxygen utilisation to further support the functioning of heart muscle cells and maintain good circulatory health. CoQ10 also helps to lower blood pressure and is recognised as an effective cholesterol lowering ‘agent’.
Research studies show that people with cardiovascular problems often have low levels of CoQ10. Risk of deficiency is even higher with patients taking statins to lower cholesterol, since not only are they likely to have low levels of CoQ10 but statins also block natural ubiquinol synthesis in the body.
Ubiquinol versus Ubiquinone
There are two types of CoQ10 used in supplements: ubiquinone and ubiquinol. Ubiquinol is ‘body-ready’, which means the body doesn’t have to convert it into a usable form – a therapeutic advantage over ubiquinone. As an antioxidant, ubiquinol also offers protection against arterial plaque, thereby reducing heart attack risk and safeguarding heart muscle cells from free radical damage. Uniquely, ubiquinol also regenerates other beneficial antioxidants such as vitamins C and E.
Ubiquinone versus ubiquinol is just half the battle with CoQ10; addressing bioavailability is a further challenge, since therapeutic outcomes are achieved by raising blood plasma levels. Most ubiquinol supplements are oil-based, which means that large ubiquinol particles struggle to pass through the gut’s water layer barrier and are poorly absorbed. A special patented delivery system called VESIsorb®, utilised by CoQ10 manufacturer Igennus, optimises absorption by converting ubiquinol into water-soluble particles, ‘pre-digesting’ it so ubiquinol is effectively fast-tracked through the digestive system. VESIsorb delivers ubiquinol into the blood stream 2 times faster than standard oil-based forms, increasing tissue distribution throughout the body to achieve significantly higher blood concentrations that remain at therapeutic levels for up to 6 times longer.
Three specific live cultures L. plantarum CECT 7527, 7528 and 7529, help break down bile salts, which are made from cholesterol, therefore allowing its removal from the body. These friendly bacteria also metabolise dietary cholesterol in the gut, therefore reducing its absorption into the bloodstream. The AB-LIFE strains also produce a beneficial short-chain fatty acid known as propionic acid, which signals the liver to produce less cholesterol and also has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Top heart health supplements
A new and unique formula from OptiBac Probiotics is the first of its kind formulated for heart health. For your cholesterol is a pioneering, well researched multi-targeted natural supplement that combines unique live cultures with omega-3 ALA from cold-pressed virgin flaxseed oil – offering a multitude of benefits for managing healthy cholesterol levels.
Since not all live cultures are the same, OptiBac Probiotics focuses on specific strains of natural bacteria that have been clinically tested and proven to survive stomach acidity, bile salts and digestive enzymes in order to find the best live cultures for the job.
VESIsorb® Ubiquinol-QHfrom Igennus provides 100 mg of fast-acting body-ready ubiquinol CoQ10 for optimal therapeutic benefits. Taken daily, this advanced supplement offers comprehensive cardiovascular support, providing potent antioxidant activity and maximal energy production.
Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend is a certified organic blend of unrefined seed oils. When included in your daily diet (mixed in with food and drink) it provides the all-important Omega 3 and 6 that are generally damaged or lacking in our regular diets. This blend of Omega 3,6 and 9 provides the nutrition required for optimum health, naturally beautiful skin, lustrous hair and strong nails.
Igennus Vegepa is a patented and highly concentrated formulation of ultra-pure EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) from marine fish oil and GLA (gamma linolenic acid) from organic virgin evening primrose oil, providing an optimal source of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain fatty acids and botanical triterpenes.
Omega-7 is prepared from berries of the sea buckthorn plant, a shrub originating in the Himalayas and is used by thousands of people across the UK for dry eyes, dry mouth and intimate dryness. The oil extracted from sea buckthorn berries is a rich source of the essential polyunsaturated omega-7 fatty acids (PUFAs), palmitoleic acid and cis-vaccenic acid. It is also a good source of the PUFAs alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 type), linoleic acid (omega-6 type), and oleic acid (omega-9 type).
Lepicol Healthy Bowels Formula is a completely natural high fibre food for help maintaining and sustaining healthy bowels. Lepicol Healthy Bowels Formula has been formulated to help support the cleansing and regulation of the bowels in a gentle, natural way and is suitable for regular, everyday use.
BioAstin Hawaiian Astaxanthin gel caps are an incredibly potent natural supplement. It supports cardiovascular health, healthy immune function, joint and tendon health, skin health, and eye and brain health. No other antioxidant can compare to the energy boosting powers of BioAstin Hawaiian Astaxanthin. One gel cap per day will help keep your body strong and full of powerful energy-boosting antioxidants.