Benefits of vegan omega-3

Benefits of vegan omega-3

Omega-3 fats - what are they?

In the past, dietary fats have got a bad rap, but just as we now understand that it's not eating fat that makes you fat, we also know that healthy fats are vital for optimal health.

Fatty acids are the building blocks for the fat found in our body and in our dietary intake. The body uses various types of fat to perform different roles, including:

  • Helping to produce and store energy and help us feel full
  • Providing the structural integrity for all of the cells within our body, promoting healthy biological functions
  • Providing the building blocks for hormones
  • Assisting with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins

Our body can make most of the fatty acids it needs to perform these roles from the dietary fat we eat. But there are some it can't make, and these are known as essential fatty acids (EFA), so-called as it is essential to include them in our diet.

There are two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid found mainly in seed, nut and vegetable oils, as well as in meat and dairy products, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, good sources of which include flax, hemp and chia seeds, as well as walnuts and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale.

These two fatty acids perform specific roles within the body; for instance, LA is crucial for skin health, and ALA contributes to cardiovascular function. They also get converted to other forms of omega-3 and omega-6 required by the body. ALA gets converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the oils that we commonly associate with oily fish. More on this conversion process later.

EPA and DHA - what do they do?

Whilst both EPA and DHA support many aspects of our health, the body uses them in different ways: EPA goes on to produce anti-inflammatory compounds and can support our immune system, whilst DHA lends itself to a more structural role and is a significant component of cell membranes; it is particularly abundant in our brain cells and retinal cells.

The following benefits of EPA and DHA are approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):

Anti-inflammatory

Several meta-analyses (studies that combine the results of numerous other studies; considered the gold standard in research) show that the supplementation of omega-3 (EPA/DHA) is associated with a reduction in inflammatory markers and an increase in antioxidant status [1],[2],[3].

Cardiovascular Health/Blood Pressure

A 2017 meta-analysis concludes that supplementing with EPA and DHA may be associated with reducing the risk of coronary heart disease [4]. The EFSA considers that a dose of 250mg per day is required to maintain normal heart function. DHA also contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure [5].

Cognitive Function/Mental Health

Over 60% of the human brain consists of fat [6], over half of which is DHA [7], demonstrating how essential this fatty acid is for healthy brain function. 

A 2019 meta-analysis shows that omega-3s have an overall beneficial effect on the symptoms of depression [8]. And exciting research indicates that supplementing with omega-3 may be of therapeutic value during the onset of Alzheimer's [9]. Students who supplemented with EPA and DHA, were found to have less anxiety around exam time than those who didn't [10].

To maintain normal brain function, the EFSA recommends a daily dose of DHA of 250mg [11].

Eye Health

As well as the brain, DHA is a crucial structural component of the retina, making up over 60% of the polyunsaturated fats present [12]. Therefore, it is a significant player in contributing to eye health and good vision.

blueberries-in-a-bowl

I eat a plant-based diet, do I need to take omega-3 oil?

If our bodies can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, then it makes sense that all you need to do is ensure that you are getting enough ALA in your diet from things like flaxseed oil and hemp seeds, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

The conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is generally low and inefficient. Potentially even more so for those following a plant-based diet [13] as the conversion depends on nutrients commonly lacking from a plant-based diet, e.g., vitamin B6 [14] and zinc [15]. 

Not only that, but the conversion processes of both omega-3 and omega-6 compete with each other. Plant-based diets tend to be higher in omega-6 (think nuts, seeds and their respective oils), and the higher the intake of omega-6 is, the lower the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is going to be.

And conversion isn't the only issue.

If omega-3 is the yin of polyunsaturated fat, then omega-6 is the yang.

Both are essential to our health, but it's necessary to eat them in the right balance, as a diet that contains too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 may promote inflammation, which may ultimately lead to chronic disease.

Human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of about 1:1. Unfortunately, today's typical Western diet, heavy as it is in vegetable oils and grain-fed meat, is more like 15:1, or even as staggeringly high as 20:1.

Ideally, we want to aim for a ratio no higher than 4:1. Nuts and seeds contain both omega-3 and omega-6 but usually have more 6 than 3. Those with the most favourable ratio include chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts.

The best way to avoid this imbalance is to up the omega-3s and hold back on the omega-6s - not so easy on a plant-based diet, which is generally rich in nuts, seeds and plant oils.

This is where Vim & Vigour comes in.

vim-&-vigour-in-the-kitchen

Vim & Vigour

We know that some fish are a great source of omega-3, but where do they get it from? The same place as us ‚Äď algae.

We directly source our oil from a natural non-GMO algae called Schizochytrium.

Other features of Vim & Vigour include:

  • Sustainable plant-based source of EPA and DHA
  • Grown in a controlled environment with minimal ecological footprint
  • No negative impact on marine habitats
  • Kosher, halal and fish-free
  • Contaminant and solvent-free
  • Fully traceable

Is algae oil as efficient as fish oil in raising DHA/EPA levels?

According to research, yes. A 2017 systematic review [16] concluded "algae sources of DHA significantly improve DHA concentrations in vegetarian populations", and a 2015 study [17] measured serum levels of DHA and the EPA in vegans before and after supplementing with an algal-derived omega-3 fatty acid for four months. The study concluded that 'the vegans responded robustly to a relatively low dose of a vegetarian omega-3 supplement'.

Not only does Vim & Vigour provide beneficial amounts of EPA and DHA, but we've also added some astaxanthin.

 vim-&-vigour-capsule-reference

Astaxanthin

We've added astaxanthin to Vim & Vigour so that you get all of the benefits of a plant-based algae oil, with the addition of a powerful antioxidant, which offers protection against the damage caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are produced within the body due to routine biological processes. Poor diet, exposure to pollution, smoking and ultraviolet light, and alcohol consumption also contribute to free radical production.

In a nutshell, free radicals are molecules within the body that have become highly reactive and unstable after losing or gaining an electron. They travel through your body, 'stealing' electrons from other molecules, causing a chain reaction of damage to our cells and DNA, otherwise known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress plays a role in the ageing process, disease development and contributes toward fertility issues [18].

Antioxidants donate electrons to free radicals, halting the free radical in its tracks and preventing further damage. Unlike other antioxidants, which can turn pro-oxidant and cause damage once they have donated their electrons, astaxanthin remains stable [19]. It also has a unique structure that allows it to interact with both fats and water, meaning it can offer protection inside and outside our cells [20].

Astaxanthin is a natural plant-based pigment derived from freshwater algae called Haematococcus pluvialis. When the algae become stressed, such as when they encounter high temperatures or environmental pollution, they produce astaxanthin as a means of protection.

Although more large-scale studies are required to fully understand the advantages of supplemental astaxanthin, smaller studies suggest that it offers neuroprotective benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It shows potential for treatment aimed at maintaining and improving eye health [21]. Other studies indicate that astaxanthin may improve the skin's elasticity [22] and support both cardiovascular health [23] and immune function [24].

In addition, astaxanthin helps preserve omega-3s, which are prone to attracting free radicals due to their physical structure. Research suggests that astaxanthin may enhance the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 and that taking them in combination may improve their inherent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of both [25].

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Each capsule of Vim & Vigour contains 125mg of EPA and 250mg of DPA, and 2mg of astaxanthin: you need just 2 per day to meet the recommended dose.

Please note, as Vim & Vigour contains astaxanthin, we do not recommend taking this product if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is currently a lack of evidence to indicate the safety of doing so throughout these times.

This product contains astaxanthin and Schizochytrium algae-based oils; both approved for supplemental use for those over 18 years of age by the EFSA [26] [27]. 

References:

[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28965775/

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31827125/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29993265/

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28062061/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4548432/

[6] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/42438067_Essential_fatty_acids_and_human_brain

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15812120/

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683166/

[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28466678/

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3191260/

[11] https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1734

[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15812120/

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835948/

[14] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1797957/

[15] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23595983/

[16] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28417511/

[17] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24679552/

[18] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22748101/

[19] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18714976/

[20] https://altmedrev.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/v16-4-355.pdf

[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7281326/

[22] http://www.actabp.pl/pdf/1_2012/43.pdf

[23] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32755613/

[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845588/

[25] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21972007/

[26] https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2020.5993

[27] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32017R2470

By Liv Evans

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