What are Omegas and why we need them?
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are exactly as advertised- essential. EFAs are critical for so many body structures and processes, including cardiovascular health, skin health, joint health, brain health, mood, and immune health. They’re really, really important. There are two essential fatty acids you may have heard of- Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Omega 3 vs Omega 6
Omega 3 is seen predominantly as the anti-inflammatory EFA. Omega 6 is seen as the more-inflammatory EFA, though one of its metabolites, GLA (as found in Evening Primrose Oil) also helps reduce inflammation. In the current human diet we tend to get abundant quantities of Omega 6 but fall really short on Omega 3, which has serious implications for cognitive health, cardiovascular health, and autoimmune diseases.
The problem with fish oil
Since I’m publishing this on a Vegan Naturopathy website, I probably don’t need to tell you about the ethical quandary of fish consumption- simply put, no, fish are not vegetables, yes they feel pain! From an ecological perspective fishing is also extremely damaging.
For many years, the research community has known that if recommended dietary EPA/DHA intakes actually occurred globally from marine omega sources, the added pressure on exponentially increasing fish stock collapses would be unsustainable.
Fishing itself is contributing hugely to plastic in the ocean; 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is fishing nets. Plastic straws actually only constitute 0.03% of plastic in the ocean; if we really care about the oceans, we stop commercial fishing.
The ecology of the ocean is paramount to life on earth, with phytoplankton producing huge amounts of oxygen, and fish considered carbon stabilisers for our atmosphere. Fish churn the sea, lowering sea temperatures- without them we have warmer sea temperatures and experience some of the most devastating results of global warming.
From a health perspective we should be aware of potential heavy metals, micro plastics and dioxins found in fish and fish oil.
Getting sufficient omegas from your food
When we eat plant-based foods we get the short-chain Omega 3s and Omega 6s from our food. We have to be very mindful to meet our Omega 3 needs on a plant-based diet, sources including flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts and dark green leafy greens. The safest food-based source would be flax or chia which require grinding, and careful airtight and temperature-controlled storage. Most plant-based health professionals recommend that 1-2 tablespoons of these seeds daily may be enough to meet you needs- dependent on your intake of Omega 6, genetic factors, age and even gender.
We require a wide range of Omega 3 metabolites in the body, and the body can convert according to needs depending on ample provision of dietary precursors and overall dietary Omega 3:6 ratio. Other genetic, gender and age-related factors also impact this conversion, with some people being better, and some worse at making this conversion. There appears to be an up-regulation in those who don’t consume fish or algae oil. Consuming the long-chain Omegas EPA and DHA found in algae and fish leads to a down-regulation in conversion from the short-chain omega 3 metabolites found in plant.
Long chain vs Short Chain Omega 3
The imbalance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 in most diets actually leads to further problems with relying upon Omega 3-rich plant foods. The natural metabolism of short-chain Omega 3 to the long-chain omega 3 relies upon an enzyme called “delta-6 desaturase enzyme” which is shared by the Omega 6 pathway. When we consume large amounts of Omega 6 this enzyme gets used up. You can greatly lower your Omega 6 intake through reducing or eliminating consumption of processed foods and cooking oils.
Whilst there is no doubt that long-chain omegas are critical, there is a misassumption which likely came from then marketing of fish oil that we do not require the shorter chain Omega 3s found in plants, AND that they are unimportant, and insufficient for human health. However, research shows differently.
One 2017 study showed that shorter chain omegas: “circulating ALA, SDA and ETA levels (were) predictors of fluid intelligence, total grey matter, and frontal neocortex brain integrity in healthy seniors, rather than EPA or DHA.” (Zamroziewicz et al 2017) Interestingly, all of these mentioned are short chain fatty acids, rather than the long chain EPA and DHA found in fish or algae.
Another study (Gagnon et al. 2018) showed a metabolite called ETA had important anti-inflammatory properties. A newly available oil, Ahiflower is the richest dietary precursor to enrich cellular ETA (from SDA). Neither fish or algal oils enrich cells with ETA.
A uniquely rich source of plant-based Omega -3 essential fatty acids, Ahiflower oil is a completely new, clean-tasting, omega-rich oil that is grown traceably and regeneratively. This incredible oil harnesses consumer preferences, surpasses all other omega-3 sources and delivers true whole body omega 3-6 nutrition and balance, at the same time reducing pressure on wild marine omega-3 sources. Its extraordinary health benefits and versatility open up many brand differentiating and leadership benefits in omega-3 wellness and nutrition.
Why Ahiflower® is the ideal omega oil
One of Ahiflower’s prime differences in the stearidonic acid (SDA) content, which is not found in flax. Stearidonic acid is found in hemp seeds, though in a far lesser amount, and also in the context of much higher Omega 6:3 ratio which diminishes its utility for overall Omega 3:6 ratio dietary balance. Stearidonic acid does not rely upon the delta-6 desaturase enzyme for conversion, and accordingly, Ahiflower has been shown to convert to EPA up to 4x more effectively than flax. It also enriches the cells with ETA and GLA– neither of which are boosted by algae or fish.
Ahiflower® is an oilseed crop (Buglossoides arvensis), regeneratively grown in the UK for its unique essential fatty acid content, delivering:
- The most complete and balanced omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content available from a non-GMO plant source.
- The richest combined source of beneficial omega-3 ALA and SDA and omega-6 GLA
- A clean-tasting, freshly cold-pressed oil
- Provides cell membranes the most effective plant precursors to EPA and DHA
- Ready conversion to circulating and tissue DHA, significantly more so than flaxseed oil, and about 90% as efficiently as a pure marine-based DHA source.
- Enriches critical cell membranes with a complete spectrum of omegas for whole body wellness and performance– as and when needed.
- Ahiflower® oil provides the most diverse array of Oxylipin precursors from complementary omega-3/-6 pathways and recognised anti-inflammatory substrates, including ETA, EPA, DPA DGLA and biosynthesised DHA.
For each metric tonne of fish biomass harvested, only 10kg of commercial EPA/DHA oil is produced. By contrast, Ahiflower® produces the equivalent amount of naturally synthesised EPA/DHA, competitively from only 1/10th hectare of non-GMO, regeneratively cultivated farmland.
Ahiflower® offers a sustainable, vegan, complete and well balanced Omega 3, 6 and 9 oil
Humans have well understood and genetically determined metabolic pathways for converting plant-based omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intakes from essential ALA and LA- or their elongated metabolites SDA and GLA- to longer chain fatty acids. Humans can produce all the EPA and DHA their bodies need; whilst fish stocks simply cannot meet minimum intake recommendations of EPA and DHA for 8+ billion people.