Algae Oil: Vegan Omega-3

Algae Oil: Vegan Omega-3

Let’s talk about the important of omega-3 fatty acids and some alternatives that are suitable for vegans, like Algae Oil.

Many people meet their omega-3 requirements with food supplements from fish oil.

However, most people are not aware that there are vegan omega-3 supplements.

How can vegans take omega-3 supplementation?

There is a 100% plant source that provides the same essential nutrients as if it were an animal source.

We are talking about Algae Oil.

Lipids are nutrients that would need several articles in order to describe their properties, different structures and classification. But that is not the purpose of this post.

Within omega-3 fatty acids we can find:

  • EPA has anti-thrombotic properties and it protects the cardiovascular system.
  • DHA is related to the development of our brain, sight, cognition and better hemodynamic markers.

Why is Omega-3 important?

Our body cannot synthesize it endogenously, which means that we need to take it through the diet.

Fatty acid structure

Figure I. Omega-3 fatty acid structures.

Low omega-3 levels in the organism can lead to:

  • A general increase in low-grade systemic inflammation.
  • Insulin resistance.
  • Alterations in the normal cell production and immune factors.
  • Central obesity.
  • Higher risk of cardiovascular event due to arteriosclerosis.

Why do we have to take them?

On the contrary, increasing their intake can improve the lipid metabolism thanks to the production of resolvins, protectins and maresins, which:

  • Help to prevent the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque.
  • Improves the blood flow due to vasodilation.
  • Improves the nerve effect on the cardiac tissue.
  • Reduces the inflammatory response.

Positive effects of taking fatty acids

Figure II. Positive physiological effects of increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acid s.

There have been many studies that have pointed out to the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation.

Benefits of Omega 3 supplementation

In fact, the American Heart Association, one of the most important entities that ensures the cardiovascular system of the population, states that:

People with hypertriglyceridemia and risk of suffering a potentially lethal cardiovascular event due to dyslipidemia can take 4g+ of fish oil a day (>2-4g/d EPA+DHA) in order to lower the risk.

The magnitude of the benefits of omega-3 supplementation will depend on:

  • Health of the subject
  • Fatty acid profile of the subject
  • Diet of the subject
To the point that it may not be effective for some people:

The effect of omega-3 supplementation is much lower and even ineffective in an active Japanese man who weighs 60kg and eats raw fish 5 times a week. On the contrary, it can be beneficial for an American man who weighs 115kg and does not eat fish regularly while walking only 3000 steps a day.

Omega 3 and Vegans

The omega-3 (fatty acid profile) levels of the vegan population is quite low. In fact, it is a predisposing factor for the onset of metabolopathies that we have previously mentioned.

Blood fatty acids in vegans

Figure III. Blood fatty acid composition of vegan subjects. The first number indicates the length of the chain (14-18-18-20…). The second one indicates the degree of unsaturation (0= saturated, 1= MUFA, >1= PUFA). Trans indicates the isomer from the functional groups in the same side, and the omega-3 status of the blood fatty acids.

Why do vegans have low omega-3 levels?

Because they eat foods that are rich in omega-6 and they mostly consume alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3.

This becomes a problem because ALA needs to transform EPA and DHA through the Delta-6-desaturase enzyme, which shares metabolism with linoelic acid, source of omega-6.

This does not happen because…

They take a lot of omega-6 and barely any omega-3 from a plant-based diet. Therefore, linoleic acid will totally control the activity of the enzyme that synthesizes EPA and DHA from ALA: Consequently, it will not be able to perform its biological functions in the organism.

Metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids

Figure IV. Metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the organism related to the activity of delta-6 desaturase.

In addition, this enzyme is sensitive to factors such as:

  • Age
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Infections
  • Intake of saturated, trans and hydrogenated fat
  • Lack of cofactors (deficiency of specific vitamins and minerals)
  • Smoking, alcohol and too much caffeine
This can hinder its activity and make matters worse.

A poorly planned diet

If we take into account that:

  • Many vegans refuse taking food supplementation.
  • Sometimes, their diets lack nutrients due to a bad planning.
That is why their risk of suffering B6, Mg and Zn deficiencies increase.

What options do vegans have?

If we take into account that a vegan can synthesize sub-optimal amounts of EPA and almost no DHA.

Bioavailable omega-3 supplementation suitable for vegans is key in order to avoid nutrient deficiencies.

The issue is trying to find omega-3 products:

Above all, there are 3 main sources:

  • Fish oil
  • Cod liver oil
  • Krill oil

All of them come from animals

Plant-based sources

Sometimes, some people will suggest seed oilwhich tends two have two main issues:

Non-vegetable ingredients

Omega-3 tends to come in softgels, which have the best oily medium. However, the coating is made from gelatin, obtained from animal cartilage.

Ingredients1 Capsule
Pumpkin seed oil (curcubita pepo)500mg
100% natural gelatin capsule, glycerine, water

Figure V. Example of an animal glazing agent in a product made from vegetable oil.

Low Omega-3 content

Vegan omega-3 are those that are made from sources such as linseed or walnut oil.

But let’s have a look at the fatty acid profile of the product:

SourceALA %EPA %DHA %
Linseed50
Walnut10

Figure VI. Omega-3 fatty acid composition in linseed and walnut.

You will notice that not only their omega-3 fatty acid content is actually quite low. In fact, their EPA and DHA content are too, with the limitations that we have mentioned previously.

The solution: Algae Oil

Algae are the main species that populate the oceanic ecosystem and they have the ability to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids.

In fact, they are the main source of omega-3 for fish and other animals.

Different species

There are many types of algae, each one of them synthesizes omega-3 at different rates.

The best species for vegan supplementation is Schizochytrium sp. since it produces a lot of DHA fatty acids. Like we said before, these are the “most difficult” to synthesize for vegans.

Graphic representation of PUFA metabolism

Figure VII. Simplified graphic representation of the PUFA metabolism.

Composition

Algae oil contains up to a 45% DHA in natural conditions, with usually 0.5% of EPA and ALA.

This becomes a great option for vegans. Actually, it is the most interesting one, because the DHA conversion is more complex and lower than that of ALA and EPA.

Dietary sources of fatty acids

Figure VIII. Omega-3 PUFA metabolism and dietary sources.

Moreover, taking DHA directly has a retroconversion of around a 9.5%, meaning that we will synthesize EPA in two ways.

The best choice for vegans!

Advantages of Algae Oil

A supplement for everyone

Algae oil is not only suitable for vegans.

In fact, it can be used by omnivores who want to increase their docosahexaenoic levels.

Fish oil is a superior source because it has both fatty acids. However, algae oil is a concentrated source of DHA. This makes it extremely useful for neurological alterations such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder (Sarris et al., 2012).

Odorless source

Fish oil supplements have a strong smell.

That is one of the main reasons why many people do not like taking fish oil supplementation.

Another organoleptic advantage from algae oil is that it does not smell, avoiding one of the main reasons why people do not purchase this type of product.

Even though it is not a nutritional problem, it can be a problem for some customers.

No reflux

Algae oil does not cause reflux, another classic feature of omega-3 from fish oil. This can be easily avoided by taking the product with a meal.

Still, if you prefer using omega-3 on an empty stomach, you should consider this option.

Cholesterol-free

High quality omega-3 fish oil, like omega-3 by HSNessentials, barely contains any cholesterol. Many times, this information does not appear in the product label because the amount is so low that it cannot be measured with the analyses by the food industry.

Unlike fish, algae are cholesterol-free, which is why algae oil is a 100% cholesterol-free.

Still, we need to take this factor into account.

It does not contain heavy metals or other contaminants

And not only that, fish are also susceptible to the contaminants that are present in the ocean.

That is why some people are worried about the dioxins and heavy metals, apart from other contaminants in fish oil.

Once again, the amount of these compounds in fish oil are minimal, even more so in the products that are registered and sold in the European Union. This is because they have to respect the limits establish in the Regulation (EU) No 78/2005 that modifies the Regulation (EU) no 466/2001 regarding heavy metals.

Despite that, this does not happen with algae oil, since their physical structure cannot retain contaminants.

New Vegan Omega-3 Vegan by HSNessentials

In HSN, we want to make clear that:

We are doing our best to make food supplements suitable for everyone, regardless of their physical condition or diet.

That is why we are eliminating all the allergens from our products. For example, gluten, dairy, soy.

EVOEAA's allergens

Figure IX. Allergen list from our Evoeaa’s.

Apart from that, we are working to come up with versions of our products so that they will be suitable for vegans.

These are some of the things we have done so far:

  • Replacing all our amino acids from animals with amino acids from plants through a natural fermentation process.
  • Eliminating animal excipients such as the caseinate from our new CLA powder.
  • And also, coming up with new products with this idea in mind.
That is how Vegan Omega-3 was born, a good supplement that is made from omega-3 fatty acids from algae oil. Standardized to 40% of DHA.

Vegan omega-3 content

Figure X. Standardized 40% DHA content in the composition of our Vegan Omega-3.

Rosemary Oil

Due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content, algae oil is quite sensitive to breaking down.

A mechanism known as “lipid peroxidation” which can negatively affect the properties of fatty acids by producing lipid radicals. These can damage the cell membranes and increase the risk of degenerative pathologies.

Fatty acid oxidation

Figure XI. Scheme of the oxidation of an unsaturated fatty acid until the production of its radicals (alcohols, aldehydes and ketones).

To prevent this, we tend use an antioxidant, which is why it is so common to find vitamin E in oil supplements rich in omega-3.

However, there is an ingredient that could be even more effective to prevent this effect, and that is rosemary.

Rosemary oxidation stability

Figure XII. Increase in the fatty acid stability of an oil subjected to 120ºC for 32h depending on the herb.

This plant is known for having a lot of bioactive antioxidants that help to prevent the lipid breakdown. The study heated the oil until it reach 120ºC to catalyze the peroxidation so that it would happen faster.

The oil remained stable at 60ºC for nothing less than 10 hours thanks to the rosemary content.

An improved oil to take advantage of all its benefits!

Still, we suggest storing your vegan omega-3 in the fridge or in a cool, dry and dark place to prevent its breakdown.

What are you waiting for? Give it a try!

Bibliography

  1. Abdelhamid, A. S., Brown, T. J., Brainard, J. S., Biswas, P., Thorpe, G. C., Moore, H. J., … Hooper, L. (201
  2. , Telis, N., German, J. B., & Hammock, B. D. (2011). Dietary omega-3 fatty acids aid in the modulation of inflammation and metabolic health. California Agriculture, 65(3), 106–111.

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Algae Oil Vegan Omega-3 Review

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About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
A specialist in Pathophysiology and biomolecular effects on nutrition and sportive activity who will show you the elaborate world of sports nutrition in his articles, employing a simple and critical writing.
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