If you are vegan, there is one thing you know for sure about your choices in omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements: You don't eat fish. But there is more than one way to get your omega-3's from plant sources. Fish, after all, get their DHA from algae.
- Microalgae is an environmentally friendly, safe source of DHA.
- Microalgae is a preferred source of DHA in two situations.
- Microalgae-derived DHA may also help prevent age-related blindness.
- Microalgae is not an inexpensive way to get your DHA.
- The human body can make both DHA and EPA from ALA, the omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseed oil.
A simple approach to omega-3 essential fatty acid supplementation is to use DHA extracted from microalgae (or Microphyte). From an environmental point of view, there is a lot to like about microalgae-based omega-3's. Algal DHA is created by red plankton grown in clean tanks filled with regularly refreshed clean ocean water.
You don't have to worry about ocean-borne toxins. Water is tested before it is put in the growing tanks. You don't have to worry about dolphins, penguins, otters, or turtles getting caught in nets, because there are no nets used in harvesting the algae. And microalgae is a renewable resources.
Baby's brain: DHA is important to growing brains and also to aging brains. Women absorb more DHA from microalgae than from fish oil during pregnancy or lactation. This is important to the baby's brain.
And adults over 55 who suffer mild memory loss may get better results from algae-based DHA than from fish oil. Neither microalgae nor fish, however, treats or prevents full-blown Alzheimer's disease.
The research is still preliminary, but there are indications that algal DHA may help slow both macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, the leading causes of blindness in adults.
Most microalgae products cost about five times as much as fish oil. An algal DHA supplement may be worth the money if you are a pregnant woman or a nursing mother, because of the way the DHA is absorbed.
And because research indicates algae-derived DHA helps with mild memory loss, people over 55 may be better off buying a vegan-sourced DHA.
But from a human health standpoint, for most of us, algal DHA is not preferable to a good quality fish oil.
It isn't essential to use either fish oil or microalgae oil to boost bloodstream and brain levels of omega-3's. Flaxseed oil and other healthy plants oils that contain alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA, also work.Women convert ALA to DHA and EPA more efficiently than men. As a general rule of thumb, you need about five times as much flaxseed oil as fish oil or microalgae oil to get the same amount of DHA and EPA into your bloodstream.
Many vegans and vegetarians, however, appreciate the simplicity of using a smaller number of algal DHA capsules rather than a larger number of ALA capsules. Algal DHA costs a little more, but it's good for you, good for the environment-and absolutely the best alternative for fish!