If you stick with any conversation long enough, it is going to eventually turn to diet and exercise. I'm sure that you already knew that diets come in almost every shape and size, with the 'keto diet' being one of the more popular choices in recent years.
Many nutritionists agree that consuming healthy fats is a good choice but avoiding the wrong types of fats is important for your health. That being said, getting enough of the essential fatty acids is necessary to keep you as healthy as possible. In most cases, we get those essential fatty acids from our diet1 but two of those fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have to be obtained directly from food because they are not able to be synthesized in the body. We find those basic fats in fish and algae and they are referred to as omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Eating a diet that has plenty of omega-3 fatty acids is important for optimal health. They are essential for the formation of cellular membranes and help to improve the uptake of oxygen and circulation in the body. Generally speaking, the appropriate amount of omega-3 to take on a daily basis is between 1.1 and 1.6 g for both men and women over the age of 14.
As a general recommendation, you should be getting between 250 mg and 500 mg of DHA and EPA daily.
Popular Sources of Essential Fatty Acids
Most omega-3 supplements will come from either krill or fish oils but this could also be problematic. Not only might it be unsustainable2, it could lead to toxicity from pesticides and heavy metals. Additionally, fish and other animal products contain cholesterol and saturated fat and are not a source of fiber. Fiber is important for the prevention of cancer, weight loss and is essential for nutrition. As a result of those potential problems and an increase in the demand for plant-based products, algae is emerging as a popular omega-3 alternative.
Interestingly, fish do not synthesize the omega-3 DHA and EPA, they are synthesized by microalgae. The fish accumulate omega-3 in their tissue as they eat phytoplankton that consumed the microalgae. The primary source of omega-3 EPA and DHA is fish oil but this is frequently seen as unsustainable. Going directly to the source, microalgae prevents toxicity and pollutants from fish and lowers the impact on the environment.
The farming of algae is relatively simple and inexpensive. The only things that you need are carbon dioxide, nitrogen, phosphorus and sunlight. The farming of algae does not expel carbon into the atmosphere, so it is carbon neutral.
What Are the Health Benefits of Omega-3?
1. Maintaining Energy and Body Structure
All tissue within the human body relies on omega-3 fatty acids to function normally. They play an important role3as components of phospholipids on the cell membrane. All of omega-3 fatty acids are important but DHA is especially high in the retina, sperm and brain.
Omega-3s, as well as Omega-6s give the body energy3 and help with the formation of signaling molecules known as eicosanoids. They are similar to fatty acids in their chemical structure and they function throughout the body's pulmonary, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems.
2. The Brain
Adults - a healthy human brain will only accept4 DHA omega-3 and Omega 6 derived arachidonic acid (AA) out of all the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) we consume. 30%5 of the brain matter is made up of DHA and AA is found throughout the brain in equal amounts with DHA being found primarily in gray matter. The gray matter is where our thinking occurs.
Ion channels and other important cellular membrane proteins require PUFAs to work into the membrane properly. If everything goes as it should, the PUFAs work along with the entire 'lipid raft' that transport proteins and signals in the membranes, helps with the formation of synapses and maintains neuronal membrane integrity. It is necessary to have DHA for all of these functions for the brain to function properly.
Infants, Children and Mothers - Receiving enough of the essential fatty acids from your diet is vitally important when you are pregnant or lactating. Some research6 shows that fatty acids are required for fetal growth and brain development. A Norwegian group did research that showed the possibility of an infant's skill and problem solving at 12 months being associated with a mother’s intake of omega-3 DHA during pregnancy.
Infants also require essential fatty acids for growth and development and for the proper functioning of tissue throughout the body. When omega-3 fatty acid intake is increased immediately after the postnatal period, improved cognitive outcomes are sometimes seen.
A mother should have a diet with adequate omega-3s because they pass to the infant through the breast milk. Pregnant women and mothers who are lactating may benefit from a DHA supplement.
The Oxford-Durham study7 (2015) showed how children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD8) could experience improved reading, spelling, and behavior when they supplemented with omega-3 and Omega-6 over a three-month period. DCD is thought to affect up to 16% of school-age children and is a motor skills disorder. It is sometimes associated with other developmental conditions, such as ADHD, learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral problems, and speech-language delays.
Omega-3 DHA is found in larger amounts in the retina of the eye. A study5 published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science showed how DHA prevented age-related vision loss in patients.
Proliferative retinopathies are diseases that frequently cause blindness. They include diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy and are often associated with neovascularization or abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina. Researchers published a study in 2017 led by Lewis Smith MD PhD, who is a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital Boston. The study suggested prevention9 of those diseases may be possible with the use of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acid.
Supplementing your diet with omega-3 DHA and EPA can reduce risks of cardiovascular disease. The benefits to the heart when taking omega-3s include lower blood pressure and reduced inflammation.
Both omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are important for the proper functioning of tissues throughout the body. When fatty acid deficiencies occur, various symptoms and disorders may soon follow including abnormalities in the kidneys and liver, reduced growth rate, decreased immune function, dry skin and depression.
A low-fat diet with minimal processed foods and naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acid is often recommended by physicians. To reduce the risk of chronic diseases, a lower omega-6: omega-3 ratio is desirable. Algal omega-3 is becoming increasingly popular because of the issues with sustainability and toxicity associated with omega-3 DHA and EPA. Additionally, it is easier and less expensive to farm algae because you only need sunlight, CO2, nitrogen and phosphorus. It is one of the few farming operations with a carbon neutral footprint.
Eating a diet based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and plant-based sources of omega-3 EPA and DHA will help you obtain the omega-6 and Omega 3 fatty acid you need for optimal health.
Vegan DHA - Omega-3 from Algae by NATURELO is a vegan and vegetarian friendly way to get the health benefits of Omega-3 that your body needs to function and stay healthy.
1. Get Omega-3s from Plants—Not Fish Oil, Aug 26, 2015
2. Living Blue Planet Report 2015, September 15, 2015
4. Your Brain On Omega 3, Mar 17, 2011