Excellent Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3s:
- Chia seed
- Hemp seed or oil
- Flax seed (ground) or oil
- Microalgae oil
- AFA Algae (Aphanizomenon flos-aquae)
- Marine phytoplankton
- Clary Sage Oil
Many people believe that fish is the best source of essential fatty acids, but the high amounts of fat and cholesterol, lack of fiber, and a generally destructive industry make fish a poor choice. Also, high levels of mercury and other environmental toxins, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, pesticides and herbicides have often accumulated in the fish. Therefore, fish has no place in an optimal diet. Fish oil has only two percent EPA, and has highly unstable molecules that tend to decompose, unleashing dangerous free radicals.
One of the primary reasons for the presence of omega-3 fatty acids in fish is because they eat microalgae. By taking algal oil, you get the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA directly from the source, without the heavy metals and other environmental toxins present in fish.
Health issues associated with fatty acids are largely traced to modern dietary habits of low intake of vegetables, algal oil, nuts and seeds, and a high intake of processed and manufactured dietary fats.
Long-term restriction of essential fatty acids (EFAs) has been related to several disease conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Excess animal fats have been strongly correlated to increases in chronic diseases. Microalgae oil does not contain high levels of ALA but is very rich in DHA, providing 250 percent more DHA per unit than fish oil. This makes microalgae oil the finest source of these essential nutrients available because the oil has the optimum balance of DHA to EPA and your body puts it directly to work without the multi-step conversion processes of other Omega-3 forms.
According to the Department of Biosciences and the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, in India, DHA-rich microalgae oil indicates as good a health-promoting effect as any other source.
The nervous system has a high fatty acid content. Lack of EFAs may contribute to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and seizure disorders.
The following are some of the functions of fatty acids:
- Provides structural support for the outer walls or membranes of the body’s cells
- Helps convert the nutrients from foods into usable forms of energy
- Assists in cell-to-cell communication
- Makes it possible for nutrients to pass from the blood through the cell walls
- Helps substances in the cells to pass into the blood
- Assists in manufacturing red blood cells
- Decreases inflammation
- Lowers triglycerides
- Makes blood less sticky
- Raises HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
- Decreases arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm)
- Decreases blood pressure
- Enhances the action of insulin
- Helps protect against oxidation and ischemic heart disease
- Reduces PMS symptoms
- Assists mitochondrial function (energy-producing parts of the cells)
As one can clearly see, essential fatty acids help us in many ways. EPA is the parent of the 3-series eicosanoids that moderate the pro-inflammatory effects that are derived from arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid occurs in peanuts, meats and animal products. An entire generation of anti-inflammatory drugs, COX-2 (Cyclooxigenase-2) inhibitors, is based on blocking the synthesis of inflammatory eicosanoids. Adding good sources of EPA is a natural way of dealing with excessive inflammation.
EPA deficiencies have been associated with neurological conditions, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, accelerated aging and autoimmune disorders, presumably as a result of direct or indirect effects of inflammatory responses that may be modulated by raising EPA levels.1 – 4 Significant improvements were noted in ADHD, autism, developmental coordination disorder (DCD), learning disabilities, and poor cognitive abilities when they were supplemented with fatty acids, primarily EPA-DHA.5 – 14 An adequate intake of DHA and EPA is particularly important during pregnancy and lactation. During this time the mother must supply all the baby’s needs for DHA and EPA because it is unable to synthesize these essential fatty acids itself. DHA makes up 15 to 20 percent of the cerebral cortex and 30 to 60 percent of the retina so it is absolutely necessary for normal development of the fetus and baby.
Improving neonatal DHA status presents a critical challenge, since this fatty acid is required for brain development,15 and the overall maternal essential fatty acid status tends to decline steadily during pregnancy.
Pregnant women have lower levels of EPA and DHA and higher levels of palmitic acid, which is in palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil.16 The transfer from red cell membrane to fetus may be a special mechanism for ensuring a fetal supply of EFA.
Mothers who eat the standard Western diet may be unable to meet the high fetal requirement for EFA.17 Meanwhile, the mother is more likely to experience postpartum depression related to degradation of EFA status.18 Recent studies suggest that women who eat a diet enriched in essential fatty acids during pregnancy and breast-feeding may enhance their baby’s language development, IQ and cognitive development.
In conclusion, algae oil and some other refined blends offer sustainable sources of high quality essential fatty acids. Microalgae allow a cost-effective supply of sustainable oil and offer many advantages over traditional oilseed crops such as corn, soybeans or rapeseed.
Algae yield far more oil than traditional oil seeds, as up to 50 percent of algae’s weight can be comprised of oil. Oil-palm trees — currently the largest producer of oil to make biofuels — yields approximately 20 percent of their weight in oil.
Algae grow up to 15 times faster than oilseed crops grown on land. Algae can be grown in marginal lands, in places away from the usual farmlands and in forests, thus minimizing potential stresses to our food chain and ecosystems.
Frequent harvesting diminishes the risk of crop failures in comparison to terrestrial plants. Algae can also reduce pollution by utilizing, via photosynthesis, large amounts of potentially harmful CO2, from industrial emissions, to grow rapidly. As one can clearly see, algae are a good and healthy source of essential fatty acids. See following page for references.
- Harris, W.S.; Poston, W.C.; Haddock, C.K.. “Tissue n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and risk for coronary heart disease events. Atherosclerosis.” 2007; 193(1):1-10.
- Nair, S.S.; Leitch, J.W.; Falconer, J.; et al. “Prevention of cardiac arrhythmia by dietary (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids and their mechanism of action.” J. Nutr.. 1997; 127(3):383-393.
- Ferguson, L.R.; Philpott, M. “Cancer prevention by dietary bioactive components that target the immune response.’ Curr. Cancer Drug Targets. 2007; 7(5):459-464.
- Freemantle, E.; Vandal, M.; Tremblay-Mercier, J.; et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids, energy substrates, and brain function during aging. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids.” 2006; 75(3):213-220.
- Amminger, G.P.; Berger, G.E.; Schafer, M.R.; et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in children with autism: a double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study.” Biol. Psychiatry. 2007; 61(4):551-553.
- Freeman, M.P.; Hibbeln, J.R.; Wisner, K.L..; et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry.” J. Clin. Psychiatry. 2006; 67(12):1954-1967.
- Richardson, A.J. “Omega-3 fatty acids in ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders.” Int. Rev. Psychiatry. 2006; 18(2):155-172.
- Sinn, N.; Bryan, J. “Effect of supplementation with polyunsaturated fatty acids and micronutrients on learning and behavior problems associated with child ADHD.” J. Dev. Behav. Pediatr. 2007; 28(2):82-91.
- Richardson, A.J.; Montgomery, P. “The Oxford-Durham study: a randomized, controlled trial of dietary supplementation with fatty acids in children with developmental coordination disorder.” Pediatrics. 2005; 115(5):1360-1366.
- Cyhlarova, E.; Bell, J.G.; Dick, J.R.; et al. “Membrane fatty acids, reading and spelling in dyslexic and non-dyslexic adults.” Eur. Neuropsychopharmacol. 2007; 17(2):116-121.
- Cohen, J.T.; Bellinger, D.C.; Connor, W.E.; et al. “A quantitative analysis of prenatal intake of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cognitive development.” Am. J. Prev. Med. 2005; 29(4):366-374.
- Whalley, L.J.; Fox, H.C.; Wahle, K.W.; et al. “Cognitive aging, childhood intelligence, and the use of food supplements: possible involvement of n-3 fatty acids.” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2004; 80(6):1650-1657.
- Birch, E.E.; Garfield, S.; Castaneda, Y.; et al. “Visual acuity and cognitive outcomes at 4 years of age in a double-blind, randomized trial of longchain polyunsaturated fatty acid-supplemented infant formula.” Early Hum. Dev. 2007; 83(5):279-284.
- Portwood, M.M. “The role of dietary fatty acids in children’s behavior and learning.” Nutr. Health. 2006; 18(3):233-247.
- Green, P., Glozman, S.; Kamensky, B.; et al. “Developmental changes in rat brain membrane lipids and fatty acids. The preferential prenatal accumulation of docosahexaenoic acid.” J. Lipid Res. 1999; 40(5):960-966.
- Ghebremeskel, K.; Crawford, M.A.; Lowy, C.; et al. “Arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids are strongly associated in maternal and neonatal blood.” Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2000; 54(1):50-56.
- Al, M.D.; van Houwelingen, A.C.; Kester, A.D.; et al. “Maternal essential fatty acid patterns during normal pregnancy and their relationship to the neonatal essential fatty acid status.” Br. J. Nutr. 1995; 74(1):55-68.
- Hibbeln, J.R.” Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers’ milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis.” PG. J. Affect Disord. 2002; 69(1-3).