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OMEGA 3 FATTY ACID

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Meet Sally!

In this video Sally will give you an introduction to the blog about omega 3.

Benefits of taking EPA and DHA

Things you need to know before buying Omega 3 oils

Did you know … 

  • Omega 3 fatty acids are a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids that have the first carbon-carbon double bond in the 3rd  position, counting from the omega end
  • The best known family members are

– Alpha Linolenic Acid / ALA

– Eicosa-pentaenoic Acid / EPA

– Docosa-hexaenoic Acid / DHA

  • Omega 3 fats are considered essential, which means the body can’t make them (no recipe on the DNA) so we must obtain them through our diet.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are primarily anti-inflammatory and blood thinning, which obviously control the inflammatory and blood clotting effects omega 6 fatty acids.
  • BTW too much Omega 3 fat can lead to bleeds.
  • WHO recommend a ratio of under 4 x Omega 6 to 1 x Omega 3, getting it around 2 to 1 is probably evolutionarily more correct.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids, Alpha Linolenic Acid / ALA are mostly abundant in high-fat plant foods especially:

– Flax seeds

– Linseeds

– Chia seeds

– Walnuts

  • Aside from being used for energy, ALA’s most important biological function is to produce Omega 3 fatty acid EPA and DHA.
  • EPA and DHA are not conditionally essential as the body makes them from ALA, but there is much discussion about the body’s ability to convert ALA to EPA and EPA to DHA, therefore many regard them as being essential, especially in adults 50+.
  • EPA’s are key anti-inflammatory micronutrients. DHA’s are abundant in the brain and retina enhancing and protecting brain and eye function.
  • Science can be confusing as very often the term Omega 3 is  interchanged with EPA and or DHA making it difficult to understand what works, what doesn’t, how much etc
  • EG. the amount of omega 3 fatty acids you need per day is not the same as the amount of EPA and or DHA you need.
  • And remember its EPA and DHA that have the biological effects.
  • When buying supplements always look for levels of EPA and DHA – aim for minimum 750mg DHA + EPA per day.
  • BTW when buying fish oils cheaper definitely isn’t better. Any oil that smells or tastes of fish, (those fishy burps) is likely to be oxidised and therefore should not be taken – come on do you really want to eat rancid oils?

Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA)

  • Alpha is taken from the Greek alpha meaning “first”
  • Linon means flax
  • Is an essential Omega 3 fatty acid
  • Like all Omega 3’s it has first carbon carbon double bond at the 3rd carbon from the omega
  • Is a long chain fatty acids with 18 carbons long
  • ALA is found in many seeds and oils, such as

– Flaxseed / Linseed

– Walnuts

– Chia

– Hemp

– Also obtained from pea leaves

  • Its most important function is the conversion to EPA and DHA which has an efficiency of only a few percent.
  • DHA synthesis from ALA being even more restricted than EPA.
  • The conversion line:

– A-linolenic acid/ALA → Stearidonic acid

– Stearidonic acid → Eicosa tetraeonic acid

– Eicosa tetraeonic acid → Eicosa-pentaenoic acid/EPA

– Eicosa-pentaenoic acid/EPA → Docosa-penta-enoic acid

– Docosa-penta-enoic acid → Tetra-cosa-penta-enoic acid

– Tetra-cosa-penta-enoic acid → Tetracosa-hexaenoic acid

– Tetracosa-hexaenoic acid → Docosa-hexa-enoic acid/DHA.

Eicosa-Pentaenoic Acid – EPA

  • Is a polyunsaturated Omega 3 fatty acid
  • Is an extra-long fatty acid with 20 carbons
  • The first double bond located at the 3rd carbon from the omega end, just like ALA and DHA
  • Acts as a precursor for hormones:

– prostaglandin-3  – which inhibits platelet aggregation aka blood thinner, regulates ocular pressure, exerts anti-inflammatory activities and may inhibit tumour cell proliferation.

– leukotriene-5 eicosanoids (are less inflammatory)  

  • EPA is obtained by eating:

– oily fish, e.g. herring, mackerel, salmon, anchovy, sardine and fish roe

– various types of edible algae

– supplemental forms of fish oil or algae oil.

– also found in human breast milk.

  • Fish, like humans, can synthesize very little EPA from dietary alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
  • Fish primarily obtain it from the algae they consume.
  • Also available to humans from some non-animal sources, such as:

– Fungus – Mortierella species, such as alpina which is known to accumulate EPA but only when cultivated at a low temperature below 15°C – temps above 20°C it accumulates AA

– Microalgae – vary with the amount – often most DHA

– EPA is not usually found in higher plants, but genetically modified form of the plant Camelina/False-flax  produces significant amounts of EPA.

  • Another source is the conversion of ALA to EPA, however, is much lower than the absorption of EPA from foods.
  • Medical conditions like diabetes or certain allergies may significantly limit the human body’s capacity for converting ALA to EPA.
  • EPA converts to DHA so ensuring a sufficient level of EPA in the diet is essential.

Docosa-Hexaenoic Acid – DHA

  • Is an omega-3 fatty acid
  • Is an extra-long fatty acid with 22 carbons
  • The first double bond located at the 3rd carbon from the omega end, just like ALA and EPA
  • It can be synthesized from ALA and EPA or obtained directly from maternal milk (breast milk), fatty fish, fish eggs, fish oil, or algae oil
  • DHA in breast milk is important for the developing infant
  • Rates of DHA production in women are 15% higher than in men.
  • Limited amounts of EPA and DHA are produced from ALA in younger men and women.
  • Most DHA in fish originates from microalgae, and becomes increasingly concentrated the higher up the food chain they are.
  • DHA is widely used as a food supplement and or additive.
  • It was first used primarily in infant formulas.
  • DHA is also commercially manufactured from microalgae
  • NB! Both fish oil and DHA are odourless and tasteless after processing – if it smells and tastes of fish its oxidised.
  • Is the primary structural component of the:

– human brain

– cerebral cortex

– skin

– retina

  • DHA is a major fatty acid in brain phospholipids and the retina.
  • DHA comprises 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in the brain and 60% of the PUFAs in the retina.
  • 50% of a neuronal plasma membrane ie. brain cell membrane is composed of DHA.
  • Amongst other things DHA modulates:

– the transport of choline, glycine, and taurine into cells

– the response to light in the retina

  • DHA deficiency is associated with cognitive decline.
  • DHA levels are reduced in the brain tissue of severely depressed people
  • Research into the potential role or benefit of DHA in various pathologies is ongoing, with significant focus on its mechanism in Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease.

Algae-based DHA

  • Back in the 1980’s NASA sponsored scientific research on a plant-based food source that could generate oxygen and nutrition on long-duration space flights.
  • Certain species of marine algae produce omega 3 DHA (and omega 6 AA)
  • Vegetarian diets typically contain limited amounts of DHA, and vegan diets typically contain no DHA.
  • In preliminary research, algae-based supplements increased DHA levels.
  • Biggest concern related to breast milk levels of DHA in Vegans / vegetarian is there adequate DHA for the developing foetus.

Dietary sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Animal sources

Oily fish

  • The most widely available dietary source of EPA and DHA is oily fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines.
  • Oils from these fishes have around seven times as much omega−3 as omega−6.
  • Other oily fish, such as tuna, also contain omega 3 in somewhat lesser amounts.
  • Although fish are a dietary source of EPA and DHA which they obtain from their food supply, including algae or plankton.
  • In order for farmed marine fish to have amounts of EPA and DHA comparable to those of wild-caught fish, their feed must be supplemented with EPA and DHA, most commonly in the form of fish oil (or microalgae in their feed).
  • For this reason, 81% of the global fish oil supply in 2009 was consumed by aquaculture.

Eggs

  • Eggs produced by hens fed a diet of greens and insects contain higher levels of omega−3 fatty acids than those produced by chickens fed corn or soybeans.
  • In addition to feeding chickens insects and greens, fish oils may be added to their feed to increase the omega−3 fatty acid concentrations in eggs.
  • The addition of flax seed a good sources of ALA, to the diets of laying chickens, increases the omega−3 content of the eggs, predominantly DHA
  • The addition of green algae or seaweed to the diets boosts the content of DHA and EPA
  • A common consumer complaint is ‘Omega−3 eggs can sometimes have a fishy taste if the hens are fed marine oils’.

Meat

  • Grass is the source of omega−3 fatty acids present in grass-fed animals.
  • When cattle are taken off omega−3 fatty acid-rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega−6 fatty acid rich grains, they begin losing their store of Omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, the amount of omega−3 fatty acids in its meat is diminished.
  • The omega−6:omega−3 ratio of grass-fed beef is about 2:1.
  • The omega−6:omega−3 ratio of grain-fed beef usually has a ratio of 4:1.
  • In a 2009 joint study by the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina, grass-fed beef was compared with grain-finished beef. The researchers found that grass finished beef is:

– higher in moisture content, 42.5%

– lower total lipid content,

– 54% lower in total fatty acids,

– 54% higher in beta-carotene

– 288% higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

– higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin

– higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium

– 193% higher in total omega−3s

– 117% higher in CLA –  a potential cancer fighter),

– 90% higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA),

– lower in the saturated fats,

– a healthier ratio of omega−6 to omega−3 fatty acids

– Protein and cholesterol content were equal.

  • The omega−3 content of chicken meat may be enhanced by increasing the animals’ dietary intake of grains high in omega−3, such as flax, chia, and canola.
  • Kangaroo meat is also a source of omega−3, with fillet and steak containing 74 mg per 100 g of raw meat.
  • Seal oil is a source of EPA, DPA, and DHA, and is commonly used in Arctic regions.
  • BUT like all seal products, it is not allowed to be imported into the European Union

Plant sources

  • Chia seeds are rich in ALA.
  • Flax seeds contain linseed oil which has high ALA content
  • Linseed (or flaxseed) (Linum usitatissimum) and its oil are perhaps the most widely available botanical source of the omega−3 fatty acid ALA.

– Flaxseed oil consists of approximately 55% ALA

– A portion of this is converted by the body to EPA and DHA, though the actual converted percentage may differ between men and women, disease state, age, etc

  • Camelina a genetically modified plant produces EPA and DHA. Oil from the seeds of this plant contained on average 11-24% EPA and 8% DHA
  • Microalgae based omega-3 supplements:

– Can be used to fortify food and animal feed

– Many of the algae are rich sources of DHA, but not EPA

– Can be produced commercially in bioreactors for use as food additives.

Approx. ALA, DHA & EPA Content in Foods

How much

Salmon – 1500 mg – per 100 grams – EPA & DHA

Caviar – 3400 mg per 100 grams – EPA & DHA

Anchovies – 1292 mg per 100 grams – EPA & DHA

Mackerel – 1195 mg per 100 grams – EPA & DHA

Herring – 1105 mg per 100 grams – EPA & DHA

Sardines – 2,205 mg – per serving – EPA & DHA

Beef brain – 855 mg per 100 grams – especially DHA

Flax seeds – 2,338 mg – per serving – only ALA

Chia seeds – 4,915 mg – per serving – only ALA

Walnuts –  2,542 mg per serving – only ALA.

Overview of possible Omega 3 Health benefits

  • May benefit depression and anxiety – EPA most beneficial
  • May improve eye health – DHA most important
  • May brain health during pregnancy and early life – both EPA and DHA important
  • May improve risk factors for heart disease – both EPA and DHA
  • May reduce symptoms of ADHD in children
  • May reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome – central obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood-  sugar, and low HDL (good) cholesterol levels
  • May reduce inflammation
  • May benefit autoimmune diseases
  • May improve mental disorders
  • May help prevent age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease
  • May help prevent cancer
  • May reduce asthma in children
  • May reduce fat in your liver
  • May improve bone and joint health
  • Might help alleviate menstrual pain
  • May improve sleep
  • May support skin health.

The Power Duo – EPA and DHA

  • The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are components of the cell membrane and have a modulating effect on the function of various cells.
  • The following effects for EPA and DHA have been demonstrated in human studies

Protect the heart and blood vessels from disease

  • Prevent cardiac arrhythmias
  • Stabilize unstable vascular areas that otherwise may cause blood clots
  • Slow down the development of changes in the coronary artery
  • Lower high triglycerides levels (the fat transported in the blood) – at a medical dose of 2–4 gm per day
  • Prevent coronary heart disease (CAD)
  • Promote blood circulation
  • Prevent blood clots (natural blood thinners)
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lowers levels of inflammatory markers, such as CRP
  • Lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD)

Protect against multiple metabolic and neurologic disorders

  • DHA is essential to pre- and postnatal brain development
  • EPA seems more influential on behaviour and mood.
  • Both DHA and EPA generate neuroprotective metabolites.
  • DHA appears more effective for neuroinflammatory conditions.
  • EPA is more beneficial for depression
  • EPA may be more protective than DHA.
  • BUT in reality scientists don’t know how DHA and EPA protect the brain.
  • Theory 1 – when cell membrane EPA and DHA are replaced with other types of fatty acids, such as oxidised omega 6 fats, nerve cells become unstable.
  • Theory 2  – maybe due to the anti-inflammatory properties of DHA and EPA.
  • ANYWAY increasing consumption of omega-3s even by a little bit, protects the brain.
  • Maybe best with pure EPA supplement, or one that contains more EPA than DHA
  • BUT Research is ongoing 

Protect eye health, vision, retinal disease

  • Healthy levels of DHA in photoreceptors maximize retinal function.
  • Protect against damage from bright light exposure and oxidative stress.
  • Protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Protect against retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and virtually all other retinal degenerative diseases.

Official Omega 3 Recommendations

  • When there is insufficient evidence to determine an RDA Adequate Intake (AI) is used instead, which has a similar meaning but is less certain.
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have developed intake recommendations for ALA
  • The AI for ALA is

– 1.6 grams/day for men

– 1.1 grams/day for women

  • Regarding EPA and DHA

– The AI f has not been established

– No Daily Value (DV) has been established

– No labelling of foods or supplements providing a DV percentage of these fatty acids per serving

– No labelling a food or supplement as an excellent source, or “High in

  • As for safety, there was insufficient evidence as of 2005 to set an upper tolerable limit for omega−3 fatty acids, although the FDA has advised that adults can safely consume up to a total of 3 grams per day of combined DHA and EPA.
  • The World Health Organization recommends regular fish consumption (1-2 servings per week, equivalent to 200 to 500 mg/day EPA + DHA) for health adults as protective against coronary heart disease and ischaemic stroke.
  • For pregnant and breastfeeding women, it’s recommended to add an additional 200 mg of DHA on top of the recommended intake.
  • The American Heart Association (AHA) has made recommendations for EPA and DHA due to their cardiovascular benefits:

– individuals with no history of coronary heart disease or myocardial infarction should consume oily fish two times per week

– for those having been diagnosed with coronary heart disease the AHA does not recommend a specific amount of EPA + DHA, although it notes that most trials were at or close to 1000 mg/day.

– The benefit appears to be on the order of a 9% decrease in relative risk.

– The report did not address the issue of people with pre-existing heart disease.

  • The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved a claim “EPA and DHA contributes to the normal function of the heart” for products that contain at least 250 mg EPA + DHA.
  • YET newer studies demonstrate that these values may not enough
  • If you’re trying to improve a specific health condition, ask your healthcare provider for dosage recommendations.
  • OBS! – if your omega-6 intake is high you will need more omega-3.
  • Cutting back on omega-6 may be the most important action you can take
  • Question? Is the increased need for omega 3 due to the increased intake of omega 6? – My answer is yes.

Golden rules of Omega 3 supplementation

  • Educate yourself before buying a supplement.
  • When it comes to omega-3 supplements, there are many choices and not all of them are good, some may contain harmful compounds, like plastics, heavy metals, pesticides, etc and high oxidation levels.
  • Contact the company of choice or look on their webpage for information about their oils and or capsules.
  • Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil contain less Omega 3 than fish oils and often have high levels of vitamin A.
  • Oil is better than capsules:

– You can smell and taste the oil

– The capsules are heated to be sealed, which can oxidise the oil in the capsule

– Size matters – getting optimal quantities of EPA and DHA may mean taking 8 – 10 capsules.

  • Good omega 3 supplements include fish, krill, and algae oils.
  • If you are vegan or vegetarian, marine oils made from algae will be your best option.
  • Aim to get minimum 500- 1000mg of EPA and DHA combined each day, more if you have inflammation, high triglycerides, brain fog, etc.
  • Commercially available fish oil are typically delivered in the triglyceride, ethyl ester, or phospholipid forms – triglyceride and phospholipid forms best absorbed.
  • Though there is much debate among supplement manufacturers about the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different forms.
  • New omega 3 kid on the block.
  • A study from 2020 suggests that EPA and DHA in a phospholipid form called lysophosphatidylcholine was found to be more efficient than triglyceride and phosphatidylcholines in getting into the brain.
  • Lysophosphatidylcholine-based omega-3 fats called LPC-omega-3’s are a special form of phosphatidylcholine-based omega-3’s.
  • LPC-omega-3 is found less in fish, but present in very high levels in:

– fish roe, such as herring, cod, salmon, lumpfish, and sturgeon aka caviar

  • Scientists believe that LPC-omega-3 can cross the brain-blood-barrier via a specific transporter, which only transports LPC-omega-3 and not standard omega-3 and is significantly better absorbed in the brain.
  • So based on this new information eat your fish, take you fish oil but be sure to eat the fish eggs.
  • Getting more EPA into the brain allows for a bigger conversion to DHA
  • Krill oil is a source of omega−3 fatty acids.
  • While not an endangered species, krill are a mainstay of the diets of many ocean-based species including whales, causing environmental and scientific concerns about their sustainability.
  • Preliminary studies appear to indicate that the DHA and EPA omega−3 fatty acids found in krill oil may be more bio-available than in fish oil.
  • Additionally, krill oil contains astaxanthin, a marine-source keto-carotenoid antioxidant that may act synergistically with EPA and DHA.
  • Those who don’t eat oily fish, fish eggs or seafood should consider taking an omega-3 supplement.
  • If you take medicines to thin your blood, such as aspirin, warfarin or heparin, speak to your doctor before taking fish oil supplements – as they also thin the blood.
  • Most clinical studies on the benefits of omega-3 use supplements and not fish.
  • Oxidized fish oil may contain lower levels of EPA and DHA.
  • Light, oxygen exposure, and heat can all contribute to oxidation of fish oil supplements.
  • Buying a quality product that is kept cool and dark in storage then kept in a refrigerator after opening can help minimize oxidation.

Questions you Need to Ask

  • Where was the fish caught
  • How long before the oil is in the bottle / capsule
  • How oxidised is the oil – TOTOX levesl

Need to Know

Contamination

  • Heavy metal poisoning from consuming fish oil supplements is highly unlikely, because heavy metals (mercury, lead, nickel, arsenic, and cadmium) selectively bind with protein in the fish flesh rather than accumulate in the oil.
  • However, other contaminants, such as PCBs, Dioxins (chlorines), etc, might be found.
  • Throughout their history, the Council for Responsible Nutrition and the World Health Organization have published acceptability standards regarding contaminants in fish oil. The most stringent current standard is the International Fish Oil Standard.

Rancidity

  • A 2022 study found that a number of products on the market used oxidised oils, with the rancidity often masked by flavourings.
  • Another study found that an average of 20% of products had excess oxidation.
  • Whether rancid fish oil is harmful remains unclear.
  • Some studies show that highly oxidised fish oil can have negative impact on cholesterol levels.
  • Animal testing showed that high doses have toxic effects. Furthermore, rancid oil is likely to be less effective than fresh fish oil.
  • TOTOX values abbreviation for Total Oxidation Value is a calculation used to assess fish oil quality by estimating the level of oxidation in the oil.
  • When the fat in fish oil becomes rancid, peroxide and aldehyde molecules are formed as a result of lipid/fat oxidation.
  • TOTOX value is an international target value that uses PV (peroxide value) and pAV (para-anisidine value) in the following calculation: PVx2 + pAV = TOTOX.
  • According to the strict limits of GOED:

– PV value should not exceed 5 mEq / kg

– pAV value should not exceed 20

– TOTOX value should not exceed 26

  • Aim for TOTOX under 10 – the lower the better.

My recommendations on How to get enough EPA and DHA

  • Consume fatty fish 3-4 times per week, such as:

– Herring

– Anchovy

– Mackerel

– Sardines.

  • These provide lots of omega-3 fatty acids in their natural, triglyceride form
  • Consider opting for smaller fish, like sardines and anchovy for less toxin accumulation.
  • These fish also provide another healthy fat called furan fatty acids
  • Furan fatty acids are powerful antioxidants.
  • Plants and algae produce furan fatty acids during the biosynthesis, which seemingly provide protection against free radicals generated by sunlight.
  • Fish obtain the furan acid just like they obtain the EPA and DHA when they eat the algae.
  • Occasionally it is speculated that the health-promoting properties attributed to omega-3 fatty acids may in fact be due to furan fatty acids – but more science is necessary – anyway you still gotta eat your fish.

Fish roe

  • Consume daily, minimum 3-4 times per week, such as:

– herring roe

– salmon roe

– lumpfish roe

– caviar

  • These are high in lysophosphatidylcholine-based (LPC) omega-3.
  • This form is well absorbed by the brain and important for brain health.

High-quality, low TOTOX DHA & EPA omega-3 supplements

  • Look for low TOTOX values – under 10 preferably under 6.
  • Look for natural forms of omega-3 fatty acids, like triglycerides and or phospholipids.
  • Look for 1000mg of EPA and DHA per day
  • My choice – find here

On top of that

  • Consider a handful of walnuts, chia seed and/or flaxseed as these contain plant-based omega-3 fatty acids ALA which may convert to EPA and DHA.

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