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.
National Vegetarian Week: Supercharge Your Vegetarian Diet
May 16th marked the beginning of National Vegetarian Week, a campaign aimed at promoting the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.
A balanced vegetarian diet is an extremely healthy choice. Vegetarians have lower mortality rates than the general population. A balanced vegetarian diet tends to provide higher levels of vitamin C, folate and thiamine than a carnivorous diet. It is also high in fibre, boosting digestive health and potentially lowering the risk of both type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer (1).
Alongside the many benefits of a vegetarian diet, there are also some potential pitfalls. Some essential nutrients are absorbed more poorly in vegetarians, while other nutrients may be less readily available in a meatless diet. Being aware of these factors can help vegetarians to achieve the full health benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.
Iron and Zinc
A balanced vegetarian diet actually contains a fair amount of iron, with iron intakes similar to that of meat eaters. Chickpeas, beans, lentils, whole grains and green leafy vegetables are all good vegetarian sources of iron.
The daily RNI for iron is 14.8mg for women and 8.7mg for men. However, an American study has suggested that the dietary recommendation for iron should be raised to 14mg for vegetarian men and to 33mg for vegetarian women (2). This is because the vegetarian diet is rich in phytates – compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – which inhibit iron absorption.
Meat eaters on the other hand tend to get much of their iron in the form of haem iron from meat, fish and poultry, which is better absorbed.
For this reason, vegetarians should be careful to optimise their iron intake. Eating iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C can enhance iron absorption. Some food preparation techniques, such as soaking and sprouting beans, grains and seeds, can break down phytates, making iron more bioavailable. An iron supplement may also be a sensible measure to ensure optimum intake.
Another important consideration for vegetarians is zinc intake. Again, plant-derived foods that are rich in zinc are also high in phytic acid, an inhibitor of zinc absorption. For this reason, vegetarians may benefit from a raised zinc intake to ensure that a sufficient amount is absorbed. A good vegetarian multivitamin containing iron and zinc will help to guard against any insufficiency. Including zinc-rich foods such as yoghurt, cheese, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds in your diet is important.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK, in both vegetarians and meat eaters. While some foods contain small amounts of vitamin D, the main source of this vitamin for vegetarians and meat eaters alike is sunlight.
Unfortunately, many of us in the UK do not get enough sun exposure throughout the year. For this reason, vitamin D supplementation is commonly recommended. Current UK recommendations are that babies, children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, elderly people and those who are confined indoors or cover up for cultural reasons should all supplement vitamin D.
An additional consideration for vegetarians is that many vitamin D supplements are sourced from animals. Some vitamin D supplements are sourced from fish oil. In addition, strict vegetarians often prefer to avoid supplements containing vitamin D3 which is made from sheep’s wool. Fortunately, alternative vitamin D supplements sourced from lichen provide well-absorbed vegan vitamin D3.
DHA: Essential Brain Food
Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include green leafy vegetables and flaxseeds. This type of omega-3 fat, ALA, is helpful for cardiovascular health.
Unfortunately, the vegetarian diet is very low in DHA, which is another type of omega-3 fat needed for optimal brain function. The main source of dietary DHA is oily fish and organ meats, though dairy and eggs also provide small amounts. A vegetarian diet with dairy and egg products only supplies around 20 mg/day of DHA (3), which is far below recommended levels.
Because of its role in brain function, DHA intake has been linked to improving both learning and memory. It is also implicated in the slowing of cognitive decline (4,5).
The simplest way for vegetarians to meet the recommended amount of DHA is to take a marine algae supplement. Omega-3 supplements made from algae are just as effective as fish oil supplements, and provide a simple and direct source of vegetarian DHA.
The Vegetarian Lifestyle
The advantages of a vegetarian diet are well studied. Vegetarians have been found to have lower blood pressure, a lower BMI and a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Although some nutrients may be less available in a plant-based diet, being aware of these potential pitfalls can help to optimise your nutritional status while reaping the many benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.
References 1. Davey G et al. (2003) EPIC-Oxford: lifestyle characteristics and nutrient intakes in a cohort of 33,883 meateaters and 31,546 non meat-eaters in the UK. Public Health Nutrition 6: 259–68. 2. Hunt J (2002) Moving toward a plant-based diet: are iron and zinc at risk? Nutrition Reviews 60 (5): 127–34. 3. 41. Sanders TA. DHA status of vegetarians. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Aug-Sep;81(2-3):137-41. 4. 10. Su HM. Mechanisms of n-3 fatty acid-mediated development and maintenance of learning memory performance. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 May;21(5):364-73. 5. 28. Hashimoto M, Hossain S. Neuroprotective and ameliorative actions of polyunsaturated fatty acids against neuronal diseases: beneficial effect of docosahexaenoic acid on cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. J Pharmacol Sci. 2011;116(2):150-62.
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”
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
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.
We are often told that we should eat oily fish or take a fish oil supplement, but why? When? Which one do you choose?
Why do you need fish oil?
Although maligned by the weight loss industry, dietary fats exist for a reason. They are present in plant and animal tissue because they perform vital functions for those organisms and, when we consume them, they do the same for us. The body needs to ingest or synthesise a ready supply to maintain health. Some lipids are even essential because they cannot be manufactured by the body and must be obtained through diet. There are many different forms of lipids, one of the most crucial subsets are the essential fatty acids (EFAs), omega-3 and omega-6.
Some anthropologists believe consumption of omega-3 fats lead to profound changes in the human brain. We probably evolved on a 1:1 ratio of omega 3:6 in our diets (1). Post agricultural and industrial revolutions, this has dramatically switched in favour of omega-6 and is now closer to 16:1. Balancing omega-3 and 6 fats is crucial for the management of many chronic diseases. Oils from cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel have been the subject of thousands of research papers, showing efficacy for a number of conditions. They provide a rich source of the active omega-3 fats, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Vegetarian sources of omega-3 require further conversion in order to metabolise EPA and DHA.
The most obvious way to tackle the shortfall in dietary omega-3 is to consume more oily fish. Individual taste is often a barrier. Furthermore, the beneficial long chain omega-3 fats can be damaged by cooking and the larger fish such as salmon can contain high levels of heavy metals and other contaminants. Therefore fish oil supplementation presents a practical way to increase omega-3 intake, but not all fish oil products are created equally.
When choosing a product it is important to be sure that it has been produced with due regard to environmental impact, has an exemplary quality profile and is effective.
How much do you need?
To maintain healthy levels of essential fats, the government recommends that we all eat at least two portions of oily fish each week but this can be difficult to achieve through diet alone, especially if you don’t like to eat fish! A good quality fish oil supplement can be a great option to ensure levels are high enough to maintain good health.
How do you know if a supplement is good quality?
Here are a few tips when looking for a good quality fish oil supplement:
Look for a fish oil supplement that is produced from small fish such as anchovies and sardines as the levels of essential fats within these fish are naturally more concentrated. You will therefore get better quality oil.
Look at where the fish are sourced. Small fish sourced from areas such as the clear pacific waters will drastically minimise the level of pollutants. This will mean you will get cleaner, more pure oil.
Look for oil that has had minimal processing. Fatty acids are delicate and can become damaged when put through aggressive production methods. If minimal heat and chemicals are used, the oil will be closer to its natural form.
Look for variety. If fish oil is pure and clean, then it can be made into capsules and liquids that have very little fishy aftertaste. Some fish oils can even be mixed with fruit bases so that adults and children can enjoy taking a daily supplement.
1. Simopoulos AP Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega 6/omega 3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases. Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy 60 (2006) 502-507.
Deaths caused by cardiovascular disease are generally premature and could easily, in some cases, be prevented by making lifestyle changes that include adopting a healthy lifestyle and increasing physical activity.
The role of lipid lowering (cholesterol and triglyceride) in reducing the risk of mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease is well documented. The cardiovascular benefits of omega-3, certainly in terms of cholesterol and triglyceride management, are probably the most researched of all the dietary nutrients known to influence cardiovascular disease risk. With the recent approval of the use of pure eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as a prescription treatment for hypertriglyceridemia  and with overwhelming evidence for EPA’s role over docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in cholesterol management,  consumers should be aware of the differential effects of the two main omega-3s, EPA and DHA, on cardiovascular disease risk factors and why they should choose isolated EPA over generic fish oil.
EPA and lipid management
Whilst fish oil provides a convenient dietary intervention for maintaining heart health, the differential effects of the two main long-chain omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on cardiovascular disease risk factors means that not all fish oil products are equal in their action.
Firstly, generic oils generally contain around 30% total omega-3 and are therefore not considered viable as a therapeutic. For example, the optimal triglyceride-lowering doses of omega-3 are 3-4g/day, with little evidence to support lipid-altering efficacy in doses of less than 1g/day.  In addition to providing a soluble means for transporting cholesterol and triglycerides through the blood, lipoproteins have cell-targeting signals that direct the lipids they carry to certain tissues.
Whilst high density lipoproteins (HDL) correlate with better health outcomes, effectively clearing cholesterol from the system, low density lipoproteins (LDL) are, in contrast, considered the cholesterol ‘bad boy’ and are responsible for the detrimental effects associated with total cholesterol.
Both EPA and DHA decrease triglyceride levels, and whilst EPA lowers LDL levels, DHA appears to increase LDL levels [4, 5]. Given that products that contain a mixture of EPA and DHA may increase LDL levels, the benefits of a pure EPA product understandably extend to both cholesterol and triglyceride management. Indeed, the cholesterol-lowering ability of pure EPA at a dose of 1.8 grams in a study of approximately 19,000 statin-treated patients with hypercholesterolaemia was shown to reduce the 5-year cumulative risk of major coronary events by 19%. Igennus’ Pharmepa Step 1: Restore (E-EPA 90) contains the purest ethyl-EPA concentrate available (90%) without prescription, delivers 1g pure EPA in just two easy-to-swallow capsules, and is ideal for those individuals wanting to manage cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
AA to EPA ratio and cardiovascular health
In addition to altering lipid metabolism, omega-3 may also improve cardiovascular health by inhibiting inflammatory products derived from the key pro-inflammatory fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA). AA and EPA are converted through phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipooxygenase (LOX) to prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes, as well as various hydroxyl-fatty acids, and the AA to EPA ratio provides an established risk factor for numerous inflammatory-related conditions, including poor cardiovascular health. Indeed, inﬂammation is an important process in the development of cardiovascular disease; chronic inﬂammation, characterised by elevated plasma levels of inﬂammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and IL-6, are commonly found in subjects at high cardiovascular risk, including type2 diabetics and patients with coronary heart disease.  Supplementing with EPA, in addition to triglyceride and cholesterol improvement, increases EPA blood levels, improves the AA to EPA ratio (which directly correlates with changes in improved LDL levels) and reduces cardiovascular related inflammation. 
In summary, EPA, unlike DHA, lowers levels of triglyceride, lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol and increases ‘good’ cholesterol, whilst reducing inflammation via management of the AA to EPA ratio. By providing pure isolated EPA at the concentrations required for therapeutic outcomes, Igennus’ Pharmepa range of EPA products are ideal health supplements for managing optimal heart health by managing lipid levels and modulating dysregulated inflammation. The prescription-strength ethyl-EPA Pharmepa Restore & MaintainTM protocol is an innovative two-step treatment programme formulated to re-establish a healthy inflammatory status within the body. Step 1 counteracts an unhealthy AA to EPA ratio – the direct measure of inflammatory status, and step 2 ensures long-term balance for optimal cardiovascular health benefits.
1. Ballantyne CM, Braeckman RA, Soni PN: Icosapent ethyl for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia. Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy 2013, 14:1409-1416.
2. Yokoyama M, Origasa H, Matsuzaki M, Matsuzawa Y, Saito Y, Ishikawa Y, Oikawa S, Sasaki J, Hishida H, Itakura H, et al: Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on major coronary events in hypercholesterolaemic patients (JELIS): a randomised open-label, blinded endpoint analysis. Lancet 2007, 369:1090-1098.
3. Pirillo A, Catapano AL: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the treatment of hypertriglyceridaemia. International journal of cardiology 2013.
4. Itakura H, Yokoyama M, Matsuzaki M, Saito Y, Origasa H, Ishikawa Y, Oikawa S, Sasaki J, Hishida H, Kita T, et al: The change in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration is positively related to plasma docosahexaenoic acid but not eicosapentaenoic acid. Journal of atherosclerosis and thrombosis 2012, 19:673-679.
5. Cottin SC, Sanders TA, Hall WL: The differential effects of EPA and DHA on cardiovascular risk factors. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2011, 70:215-231.
7. Tani S, Nagao K, Matsumoto M, Hirayama A: Highly Purified Eicosapentaenoic Acid May Increase Low-Density Lipoprotein Particle Size by Improving Triglyceride Metabolism in Patients With Hypertriglyceridemia. Circulation journal : official journal of the Japanese Circulation Society 2013.