Tag Archives: omega 3 supplements

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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Omega-3 supplements in early infancy may protect against allergies

A recent Australian study provides the first human data showing the benefits of very early postnatal fish oil supplementation in children (1).

The randomised controlled trial, led by Susan Prescott, investigated the effects of fish oil supplements on 420 infants from birth to six months of age. It found that supplementation significantly lowered the allergic response in infants.

Fish Oil for Infants
Products like Igennus Vegepa can be taken by the mother and provided to their infant via breast milk.

Allergies in children are on the rise. In 2004, 39 percent of children were diagnosed with one or more of the allergic conditions asthma, eczema or hayfever. Nobody really knows why allergies are on the increase although factors such as pollution and higher levels of environmental toxins may be partly to blame. Diet may also play a role. Essential fatty acids are important regulators of inflammation and immune response, and so imbalances of these types of fat in the western diet may be partly responsible.

The effects of fish oil supplements during the third trimester of pregnancy have been studied, and benefits include reduced risk of asthma in children. A more recent study has now investigated the effects of fish oil on children’s immune systems during the first 6 months after birth.

In this new study, published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy, each infant was given either a fish oil supplement providing 280 mg of DHA and 100 mg of EPA, or a placebo supplement each day. Signs of allergic response in each infant were then measured at both 6 and 12 months of age.

Blood tests taken at six months of age confirmed that the fish oil group of children had significantly higher levels of EPA and DHA that the control group. Levels of arachidonic acid, an inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, were also lower in the fish oil group.

The infants who had received the fish oil had significantly lower allergic responses to both dust mites and milk protein. Substances such as interleukin-13, a type of protein involved in allergic responses, were much lower in the fish oil group. Significantly fewer infants in the fish oil group were diagnosed with eczema at 12 months old.

Harry Rice, PhD, Vice President of scientific and regulatory affairs for GOED, the omega-3 trade association, felt positive about the findings. “The present results demonstrating the immunomodulatory properties of EPA and DHA translating into allergy protection suggest that the simple step of supplementation with EPA and DHA in infancy may result in increased quality of life, not to mention decreased health costs, for those afflicted with allergic conditions.”

While there are several pleasant-tasting fish oil supplements formulated for children, few are explicitly recommended for young infants. In fact, the researchers noted that maternal supplementation may be a more efficient way of supplementing breastfed infants who might sometimes reject the capsules through spitting or vomiting. Until further studies have been carried out, the long-term impact of this type of supplementation is not certain. In the meantime, breastfeeding mothers may want to try a good quality fish oil supplement as a nutritional safeguard for their child’s immune health.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
1. D’Vaz N, Meldrum SJ, Dunstan JA, Lee-Pullen TF, Metcalfe J, Holt BJ, Serralha M, Tulic MK, Mori TA, Prescott SL (2012) Fish oil supplementation in early infancy modulates developing infant immune responses. Clin & Exp Allergy 42:8 pp1206-1216

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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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