Omega 3’s are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are required by the body. They are responsible for several cellular functions, including cell membrane fluidity and cell signaling. Omega 3’s are also indicated in nervous system regulation and have numerous cardioprotective properties, in addition to modulating inflammation in the body.
It is estimated that 95% of people are deficient in omega 3s, specifically the non-essential Omega 3s EPA and DHA.
Despite the physiological need for omega 3’s and the positive clinical outcomes, sometimes the research is not conclusive when it comes to the effects of omega 3’s as a tool for reversing markers of disease. This comes mainly from poor quality supplements used in research or doses falling below the therapeutic threshold.
Here are our clinician backed tips and considerations when choosing a quality omega 3 supplement to move the needle forward on client progress.
Top 5 Tips:
1. The research is conclusive that supplementing with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), does not increase plasma levels of EPA or DHA, and it doesn’t reduce levels of the the inflammatory omega 6- arachidonic acid (AA). Supplementation with EPA and DHA have been clinically shown to increase plasma levels of both omega 3’s while reducing AA. Opt for supplements with EPA and DHA and not ALA.
2. Look for documentation of 3rd party testing. Testing should include:
Rancidity test, ideally, testing for both peroxide and anisidine levels (you can ask company reps for this info)
Dosing is accurate. Non-third party tested omega 3s consistently come back with a lower dose per capsule than advertised
Toxicity reports, testing should be done for hundreds of contaminants including but not limited to: drug residues, heavy metals, organic contaminants
3) Look at the dose of EPA and DHA specifically. Generally, this is found on the ingredients breakdown on the back of the bottle. The milligrams stated on the front of the bottle are often indicative of the total amount oil, not the EPA and DHA. Products can contain vegetable oils used as fillers or other fats coming from the fish, labelled as fish oil. These can be upwards of 600 mg. This is nearly always an issue in drugstore brands, but many clinical lines are guilty of this as well.
4) Opt for anchovy, sardine or mackerel-based supplements over Krill oil. Krill is less sustainable and per serving has less EPA and DHA than other fish oils. Krill oil is also less stable and therefore oxidizes quicker, and has a higher price point.
5) When it comes to choosing between a triglyceride form (TG) or ethyl esters (EE) form - don’t get too technical. They have both been proven by multiple studies to be clinically effective. We suggest going with an EE form, because the molecule is smaller- allowing for more in one capsule, simply for client compliance.
Do Vegan Omega 3’s Have Therapeutic Value?
Yes, with caveats. When coming from microalgae, vegan sources of EPA and DHA are the exact same in terms of molecular structure as when they come from fish oil. In fact, fish are high in omega 3’s because algae, their food source is rich in it.
With this in mind, when using vegan supplements EPA dosing is an aspect to keep in mind. Look for products that contain both EPA and DHA, not just DHA, which is relatively common.
It's also important to note that algae has higher amounts of DHA, which is usually reflected in the ratio present in vegan omega 3 supplements. The goal would be to find a vegan supplement with the highest concentration of EPA as possible and dose accordingly.
Many vegan omega 3 supplements are ALA and void of EPA and DHA. These supplements we want to avoid as they don’t have a significant effect on physiology.
Low Quality Omega Supplements can Be Harmful to Physiology
Oils, when exposed to heat, light oxygen can become rancid. Certain extraction processes can also damage oils to a point where they become inflammatory - the opposite of what we want them to do! These processes are often utilized by lower quality companies- and in those that bulk buy supplements and label them as their own.
Fish and algae can contain several toxins. The cheaper supplements found in big box stores typically don’t use third party lab testing or have the processing required to minimize and remove chemicals and toxins such as heavy metals. This means that many bulk omega supplements can contain toxins such as heavy metals, which accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish, and in turn accumulate in human adipose cells.
Membrane rigidity along with metabolic dysfunction and inflammation are part of the pathogenic process of virtually every disease. Omega 3s are a useful tool to help clients heal, but when supplementing, a low quality omega will at best do nothing and at worse can aggravate symptoms already present.
Let us know in the comments if there’s any questions to help you make informed decisions when it comes to client care!
Authors : Lisa Kowalyk & Sidney Shindle - Cofounders, Fiore Health