Plant based sources of vegan &
vegetarian Docosahexaenoic acid - DHA and Eicosapentaenoic
acid EPA & Essential Fats
Omega 3 essential fatty acid
Omega 3 benefit is now well known, with omega 3 6 9 and omega 3
supplements being recommended to at us at every opportunity. Here London NutritionistYvonne Bishop-Weston from Foods for Life looks at diet options for vegetarians
and vegans and those with ethical and religious concerns
surrounding seeking vegetarian and vegan EPA and DHA sustainable alternatives to
omega 3 fish oil and fish with omega 3 fatty oil.
are essential fats
are so defined as they are vital for, but cannot be made by, the human
Only plants can make the vital omega 3 and 6 parent fatty acids, human
can then convert these to other fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic
and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are
building blocks of the brain and nervous
They are needed for the integrity of every cell membrane in the
body so particulalry important for the health of vital organs such as
the heart and brain.
essential fats are processed in the body
essential fats start with the dietary
omega 3 and 6 parents. They are then converted into long-chain
fatty acids. The omega 3 parent fatty acid is
called alpha linolenic
acid (LNA or ALA)
and comes from seeds such as flax, hemp
and pumpkin, from nuts such as walnuts, and to a lesser extent from
a series of
enzyme-controlled reactions the body converts this LNA into a number of
fatty acids including EPA and DHA. Among their many roles EPA is needed
brain function, concentration, and vision, and is also converted into a
powerful anti-inflammatory agent. DHA is needed as a building material , particularly for brain structure and
especially important in pregnancy for the baby’s brain and
nutritional sources of EPA
and DHA come from oily fish as the fish consume the essential fats from
concentrating into these fats and then accumulate them up the food chain. Now we have
the opportunity to cut out the middle man and just consume algae based
EPA and DHA ourselves. There are a number of algal oils with DHA V-Pure was the first to have DHA and EPA
omega 6 parent fat is called
linoleic acid (LA) and is found in seeds such as hemp, flax, sunflower
sesame as well as in nuts. Sunflower oil is probably the most well used
converted by the body
into GLA, also found in borage, evening primrose and blackcurrant seed
well known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties and use in
balance.LA is also
arachidonic acid (AA), which although is needed by the body, also acts
inflammatory agent and in excess can contribute to inflammatory
as arthritis and cardiovascular problems. AA is found in meat and dairy
often consumed in excess.
Both the more complicated longer chain omega 6 GLA and the longer chain omega 3 SDA have recently been discovered in Echium oil.
These longer chain essential fats saves the body having to
complete the first hurdle in the conversion chain and thus in
research Echium oil has been shown to be 5 times more effective
than flax at being converted to EPA (but not DHA) than Flax oil. A
number of products are now available with Echium oil the first of which
are the functions of essential fats?
fats and the other
fats they are converted to, have a wide range of functions in the body.
are vital for the structure of cell membranes making them flexible and
allow nutrients into, and toxins out of, cells so body process can
correctly. They also play roles in cardiovascular health, immunity, and
omega 3 food sources
seeds and their oils are
good sources of the omega 3 and 6 parent fats and hemp seed also
pre-converted GLA. They do not however contain the vital EPA and DHA. Fish with omega 3 fatty oil
are able to make these fats from the algae they eat and so provide an
source to those who eat omega 3 fish oil. We can of course eat the algae ourselves
chlorella and spirulina provide valuable sources of these converted
well as a whole host of other nutrients. If you don’t eat
algae then you need
to rely on your body’s efficiency in converting the fats
itself. There are many
ways you can support this conversion .
your omega 3 essential fatty acid levels
a daily intake of nuts, seeds and their omega 3 6 9 oils.
an algae / alga (spirulina or chlorella) drink 4 times a week.
good sources of the nutrients which aid essential fat conversion
magnesium, calcium, biotin and vitamins B6, B3 and C.
things which inhibit conversion; alcohol, saturated and trans fats
foods and processed foods), smoking, caffeine, viral infections, stress
excess intake of vitamin A and copper.
your intake of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Due to the widespread use of
sunflower oil in food manufacturing we tend to have a much greater
omega fats in our diets. This imbalance can lead to the conversion
enzymes getting used up for omega 6, restricting omega 3 conversion.
balance is around 3 to 4 parts omega 6 to one of omega 3.
your seed oils cold-pressed and from the fridge in your health shop.
in small quantities so it remains fresh. At home store them in the
use them cold. If heating oils use olive or coconut oil.
people may have less of the conversion enzymes and may need to be
the above nutrient supporters and inhibitors. These people include
atopic allergies (asthma, eczema and hay fever which run in the family)
an algae-based DHA supplement when planning a pregnancy, pregnant or
an essential fatty acid test to determine your specific needs and if
is meeting these. - These can be arranged via Foods for Life Tel: 08712884642 0r fill in online form at London Nutritionists Clinics in Harley Street, London, Croydon, City and Balham.
you need oily fish?
you optimise your intake of
essential fats, and their conversion, the majority of people can
health without fish. Oily fish also has a number of drawbacks in
the ethical considerations. The seas are increasingly polluted and
levels of toxicity such as dioxins and PCP’s as well as
mercury have often been
found in fish destined for the food chain. Farmed fish is also not the
as this unnatural method of rearing fish not only relies on a processed
which may not convert to the same nutrients in the fish, but also
uses of antibiotics and other harmful agents to prevent the spread of
Algae sourced DHA supplementation is however recommended in pregnancy
studies have shown lower levels in babies born to vegan mothers.
Finally if you
have a health condition such as diabetes or atopic allergies or even if you are mildy stressed you may be
in your ability to convert your own fats so you'll need to consider an
algae based DHA EPA supplement.