You may be wondering what Omega-3 is, and if you should supplement this essential fatty acid. This article discusses some of the benefits.
One thing most nutritionists agree on is that we need more Omega 3 essential fatty acids in our diet. Our bodies can’t make it, that’s why it’s essential. Meanwhile safety issues have been raised repeatedly about contamination of toxins in fish oil that makes it no longer a clean and safe source of the key fatty acids. There has been a frantic race to be the first company to bring to market a product that has both plant based docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Harley Street Nutritionist Yvonne Bishop-Weston says Although nutritionists struggle to agree on the optimum ratio of DHA to EPA most agree you shouldn’t really have one without the other. Previously only algal DHA was available and even then difficult to get hold of. The fact nutritionists can now recommend a sustainable sourced, pure plant based product that contains both EPA and DHA is a huge leap forward for the health of everyone, and especially vegetarians, vegans, religious and ethical groups who avoid animal products for ethical and environmental reasons.
In theory you should be able to convert Omega 3 oils in flaxseed to DHA and EPA but even the Flaxseed Council of Canada concede that the reality in today’s hectic world is that it’s hard to find solid, consistent, corroborating evidence of this..?
Things such as stress, gender, genetics, diet, disease, toxins, balance of fats, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, sugar and freshness of the product all can hinder our ability to convert Omega 3 alpha linolenic (LNA) acid to DHA and EPA.
Here are just some of the latest studies on the unqiue Omega 3 chain fatty acids showing how vital they can be in the quest for optimum health.
Study to investigate Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid imbalances in patients with cystic fibrosis and bioavailability and effects of algal DHA by Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Compared with placebo, DHA supplementation increased plasma, erythrocyte, and rectal DHA levels four- to five-fold (P < 0.001) with concomitant decreases in blood arachidonic acid levels and the ratio of arachidonic acid to DHA. Supplementation was well tolerated, with no treatment-related changes in liver enzymes, growth, or antioxidant status. Algal DHA triacylglycerol oil is readily absorbed, well tolerated, and increases blood and tissue DHA levels in patients with CF. No adverse developments were associated with this large dose of DHA oil. Larger studies of longer duration are needed to determine whether DHA supplementation results in any clinically significant benefits in patients with CF.
Nutrition. 2006 Jan;22(1):36-46. Epub 2005 Oct 12.
In a study to evaluate safety and benefits of feeding preterm infants formulas containing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) by the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada it was found feeding formulas with DHA and ARA from algal and fungal oils resulted in enhanced growth.
J Pediatr. 2005 Apr;146(4):461-8.
Because safety issues have been raised repeatedly about contamination of toxins in fish oil that makes it no longer a clean and safe source of the fatty acid, a study by Department of Biology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, China investigated the cell growth inhibition of DHA from a cultured microalga in human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells. Results from this study suggest that DHA from the cultured microalga is also effective in controlling cancer cell growth.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1030:361-8.
Center for Perinatal Studies, Swedish Medical Center, 747 Broadway (Suite 4 North), Seattle,USA, conducted a case-control study in Lima, Peru, from June 1997 through January 1998 to assess whether alteration in maternal erythrocyte omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) fatty acids was associated with increased risk of preeclampsia.
The results in the Peruvian women, were that low erythrocyte n-3 fatty acids appeared to be associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia. A similar pattern was observed for eicosapentenoic acid (20:5n-3, EPA) and docosahexenoic acid (22:6n-3, DHA)
Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2006 Mar 7
Chronic fatigue syndrome
There is now evidence that major depression is accompanied by decreased levels of omega3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). There is a strong comorbidity between major depression and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Results from a study by M-Care4U Outpatient Clinics, and the Clinical Research Center for Mental Health, Belgium suggest that patients with CFS should respond favourably to treatment with – amongst other things – omega3 PUFAs, such as EPA and DHA.
Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2005 Dec 28;26(6):745-751
Study of Breastfeeding women given capsules containing a high-DHA algal oil (approximately 200 mg DHA/d) by US Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center and the Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA
DHA supplementation of breastfeeding mothers results in higher infant plasma phospholipid DHA contents during supplementation and a higher Bayley Psychomotor Development Index at 30 months of age.?
Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1):125-32
A study by Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario Canada showed a dietary source of DHA and EPA are superior to the supplementation of flaxseed LNA in raising DHA / EPA levels.
Flax oil supplementation resulted in an increase in alpha-LNA and a slight decrease in the ratio of AA/EPA, while fish oil supplementation resulted in increases in EPA, DHA and total omega-3 fatty acids and a decrease in the AA/EPA ratio to values seen in the Japanese population. These data suggest that in order to increase levels of EPA and DHA in adults with ADHD, and decrease the AA/EPA ratio to levels seen in high fish consuming populations, high dose fish oil may be preferable to high dose flax oil.
Reprod Nutr Dev. 2005 Sep-Oct;45(5):549-58.
Comments by Flax Council of Canada
- LNA is converted to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA).7 Efficiency of Conversion of LNA . Conversion of LNA to EPA in humans reportedly ranges from a low of 0.2% to a high of 8%.7,10 The 40-fold difference in these conversion rates may be due to differences in study they admit.
- The fact that LNA conversion to EPA, DPA, and DHA is affected by gender, smoking, and diet suggests that people differ in their metabolic capacity for LNA conversion. Clearly, LNA conversion is more complex than was originally thought. Studies are needed to determine the diet and lifestyle patterns that enhance LNA conversion to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.