Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids from fish are known to have a variety of health benefits, but eating fish is not the healthiest method for getting these valuable fats.
There are three major omega-3 fatty acids that we get from our diets. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a short-chain omega-3 found in flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and other plant foods. ALA is an essential fatty acid – this means that the human body cannot synthesize it. When we take in ALA from plant foods, the body can elongate it into long-chain omega-3s: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These long-chain omega-3s are commonly obtained by eating fish, whose tissues accumulate these fatty acids from algae or algae-consuming marine life. EPA and DHA are important as structural components of cell membranes, especially in the brain and retina, and also help to regulate the inflammatory response. These fatty acids are considered “conditionally essential” fatty acids, even though the body is capable of making some of them from ALA (the “parent” omega-3 fatty acid). EPA and DHA are important for many people due to a wide range of genetic differences in the ability to fabricate them, or because of insufficient ALA intake.
For vegetarians and vegans, are omega-3 supplements necessary? Or are walnuts and flaxseed enough?
Conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA varies based on dietary omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, other dietary fats, alcohol consumption, gender, age and individual genetic differences. On average, less than 4 percent of ALA is converted to DHA in men and approximately 9 percent in women; less than 8 percent of ALA is converted to EPA in men and up to 21 percent may be converted in women. Much of the ALA we take in from our diet is burned for energy, not converted to EPA and DHA. Because only ALA, not pre-formed DHA and EPA, is present in plant foods, vegans commonly have lower circulating levels of DHA than non-vegans. Unless a person is eating lots of fatty fish, the typical modern diet is low in pre-formed EPA and DHA for omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike. Most people eat a diet rich in omega-6 fats, but deficient in omega-3s. Many vegetarians who consume sufficient flax, hemp, chia, walnuts, and greens as a source of ALA may manufacture sufficient long-chain omega-3s on their own. However, even with an ideal diet, conversion efficiency may not be sufficient for many people to achieve optimal long-chain omega-3 status, especially for DHA.
A 2014 study published in Clinical Nutrition reported that many vegans (who were not taking DHA and EPA supplements) had low blood omega-3 levels, confirming previous observations. The low long-chain omega-3 blood levels found in vegans also indicate that conversion from ALA may not produce sufficient EPA and DHA to achieve their health benefits. It is often the case that consuming more ALA does not guarantee sufficient DHA. For example, ALA supplementation of 2 grams/day (more than the Adequate Intake of ALA recommended by the Institute of Medicine: 1.1 grams/day for women and 1.6 grams/day for men) was shown to produce only a very slight increase in long-chain omega-3 blood levels. I have found similarly when testing fatty acid levels in my patients that deficiencies of these fatty acids frequently exist, even in those who eat excellent diets with plenty of ALA-rich foods.
DHA is the most important omega-3 fatty acid to supplement, because conversion of ALA to DHA is much lower than that of EPA. However, EPA has vital functions as well, and adding a small amount in a supplement helps to assure adequacy. EPA is an important precursor to eicosanoids, molecules that regulate the inflammatory response.
Why take algae-derived supplements instead of fish or fish oil?
Fish is an unfavorable source of EPA and DHA because most fatty fish contain harmful pollutants, such as dioxin and mercury. People also report difficulty digesting fish oils because of the fishy taste and foul odor. The bad taste, indigestion, and burping from rancid oils is not healthy. Purified fish oils are an option, but our oceans are in crisis. The claims about fish benefiting heart health have increased the demand for both fish and fish oils, and this demand cannot be met by the world's current supply. In 2003, it was estimated that the world’s large predatory fish populations had declined 90 percent since the 1950s. Farmed fish are also problematic – they are fed a diet of smaller, wild fish, driving wild fish stocks down and adding chemicals and pollutants to local waters. Algae-based DHA+EPA is a more sustainable option, and it is free of the environmental pollutants that accumulate in the fatty tissues of fish.
Since EPA and DHA have so many crucial functions and health benefits, it is imperative to maintain adequate levels of these fatty acids, especially to protect the aging brain.
Storage and Shipping
Dr. Fuhrman has tested other DHA and EPA products on the market and found them all to be shockingly high in rancidity scores. Rancid oils can have a foul taste, and cause burping and indigestion. Consuming rotten oil is not healthful, so it is important to purchase a product that begins fresh and without oxidation. Special care is taken in the manufacturing and storage under refrigeration to ensure that Dr. Fuhrman’s DHA+EPA Purity does not become rancid or oxidized. You will certainly taste the freshness of DHA+EPA Purity when it hits your tongue.
Note: Upon receipt of product, keep refrigerated to maintain freshness.
Adults and children 4 and over 0.75 ml
Children 1-3 years 0.5 ml
|Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)||175 mg||*|
|Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)||88 mg||*|
* Daily Value (DV) not established.
Algal Oil, Sunflower Oil, Sunflower Lecithin, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Tocopherols, Ascorbyl Palmitate, and natural flavor.
Keep refrigerated to maintain freshness.
(Made in a facility that also processes wheat products)
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