Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Question? Are there any vegetarian sources specifically algae oil of the 2:1 ratio we need of EPA:DHA Omega-3 fatty acids?

Question? Are there any vegetarian sources specifically algae oil of the 2:1 ratio we need of EPA:DHA Omega-3 fatty acids?

Answer: No, not if you are a human.

Algae oil sourced DHA is readily absorbed by the body in a form that can be used...to a point.
However...a 2:1 ratio EPA/DHA should be maintained in "healthy adults" and the most common ratio of algae oil is 1:30 EPA/DHA. Eeek! To get a healthy dose of EPA you would need to take tons of the algae oil and be left consuming way too much DHA, and this left over DHA will need to be broken down and oxidized causing inflammation and pain, etc.

Ask yourself...Where will you get your EPA from?

Extra DHA is needed for growing infants and chronically ill individuals (with neurodegeneration who need nerve regrowth).

EPA prevents inflammation and DHA rebuilds the cell membranes of nerves and prevents inflammation to a lesser degree than EPA. A critical effect of increasing EPA is that it enhances the formation of prostaglandin E3 (PGE3) by utilizing COX-2. PGE3 blocks inflammation, whereas arachidonic acid derived PGE2 promotes inflammation.

The principal neuroprotective component of fish/algae oil is DHA. Without EPA, Arachadonic Acid causes a whole host in inflammatory related problems. As I mentioned before, we humans are terrible at converting ALA or DHA into EPA. Ohhh to be a shrimp, krill or phytoplankton for a day.

Only keep reading if you are jazzed about the science and research behind N-3 FAs like I am as it can be a bit dry reading to some.

Less simply:
Most algae sources of Omega-3's have a 1:30 EPA:DHA ratio. The conversion of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) (plant omega-3) to the anti-inflammatory EPA omega-3 is enhanced with adequate levels of vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc. The conversion of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) (plant omega-3) to the anti-inflammatory EPA omega-3 is impaired by trans fats and caffeine. The true human range of conversion of ALA to EPA is generally between 0.2% and 9% but averages out around 3% in your average person mostly due to poor diet.

The most current research states that fetal gestation and fetal benefits could be achieved by supplementing with 2700 mg/d of EPA (1780 mg) + DHA (920) in the ratio of 1.93/1 (essentially 2/1).

I think: Algae oil supplementation may possibly beneficial to a breast feeding vegan mom whose infant needs a 1:2.6 EPA:DHA ratio and will get just that from breast milk, but even at those levels that is a lot of lipid oxidation and free radical formation for the mom to have to oxidize the leftover DHA. With pregnancy because of the elevated relaxin causing joint changes, other hormonal changes and body/joint morphology: it comes with enough inflammatory painful conditions on its own and doesn't need any additional inflammation, yikes! Both arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are critical to fetal and infant central nervous system (CNS) growth and development. DHA is also involved in visual and neural function and neurotransmitter formation. During the last trimester, the fetus requires at least 50-70 mg a day of DHA. Babies require high DHA for their CNS up until about 18 months of age.

For adults the 2:1 (1.93:1) or 8:5 EPA:DHA ratio (depending on the literature you read) stands as a safe zone of consumption ratio. Providing adequate antioxidant consumption beforehand naturally. Increasing EPA relative to arachidonic acid blocks pro-inflammatory prostaglandin formation (by inhibiting the arachidonic cascade) from arachidonic acid by inhibiting cyclooxygenase.

Again... a critical effect of increasing EPA is that it enhances the formation of prostaglandin E3 (PGE3) by utilizing COX-2. PGE3 blocks inflammation (good stuff), whereas arachidonic acid derived PGE2 promotes inflammation (bad stuff).

The most important things here are (1) American's ratio of Omega-3:Omega-6 is 1:25 currently and getting worse by the year as it should be 1:1. (2) "Nearly everything" we buy at the grocery store or at restaurants is void of Omega-3's of any kind.

Supplementing with 1:30 EPA:DHA ratio algae oil is only 5% efficient at delivering the oils at the right ratio to our bodies requiring 95% of the DHA to be Oxidized and excreted. Even worse: ALA Omega 3's from flax seed and other vegetable sources is only 3% efficient at being converted to EPA/DHA the other 97% must be oxidized and create free radicals to be processed by us. (Thus playing a significant role in chronic pain, cancer, thrombosis, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, & neurodegeneration.) Intake of omega-6–rich oils found in sunflower, corn, and cottonseed oils should be minimized because they are converted to substrates that compete with EPA.

Of additional note I think the algae oil higher DHA levels may help to limit the effects of Alzheimers Disease and here's why: Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids compete for incorporation into the labile second position of brain phospholipids, so that high Omega-6, low Omega-3 intake ultimately leads to a preponderance of Arachadonic Acid (AA) in brain phospholipids. Since AA is the substrate for cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX) enzymes, this creates a net proinflammatory environment that interacts directly with Alzheimers Disease pathogenesis.”

Fun DHA Trivia:
DHA is rich in the cerebral cortex, retina, testis and sperm, and DHA is one of the most abundant components of the brain’s structural lipids. - "Didn't someone at the workshop mention eating brains and balls?" It made me laugh when I read this.

Regarding Alzheimer's Disease
The apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4) is by far the single most potent and best established genetic risk factor for Alzheimers Disease (AD). This gene is involved in cholesterol metabolism, oxidative damage, and inflammation. AD is initiated by increased Aβ protein accumulation. Aβ protein interacts with metals to cause oxidative damage and neuroinflammation causing synaptic dysfunction and loss along with tau neurofibrillary tangles......So yes, people may have a genetic predisposition toward AD, but from what we know about Omega-3 & 6 we should be able to prevent naturally the metabolism, oxidative and inflammatory changes that bring on the symptoms of AD.

The DHA should be greater than the EPA, because children experience more nerve growth than nerve repair relatively, baring nerve injury.
900 mg of EPA + DHA per day (1:2.6 ratio of EPA:DHA)

Has an ideal ratio of ALA, EPA, DHA, and GLA; EPA should be double DHA
3,000 mg of EPA + DHA per day (6 Complete Omega-3 Essentials)

Degenerative Neurological Conditions - Amount of EPA + DHA Required
No chronic disease - 2.5 grams / day
Overweight, obese, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, before starting any weight-loss program - 5 grams / day
Chronic pain - 7.5 grams /day
Neurological Disorders - 10 grams / day

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (fish oil)
The use of fish oil for the treatment of muscular, skeletal, and discogenic
diseases, can be traced back to the late 18th century.
“Research has shown that the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are some
of the most effective natural anti-inflammatory agents available.” [7 references in PubMed]
“With the discovery that vascular inflammation is the underlying cause of
coronary artery disease, fish and fish oil supplements are now recommended by the
American Heart Association for the prevention of this disease.”
“Countries that have the highest fish consumption also have a lower incidence
of neurodegenerative disease and depression.”
“The biological basis for the effectiveness of fish oil in treating arthritis has
been well documented with many positive clinical studies, when compared to
traditional pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory agents.”
“The active ingredients in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), enhance the conversion of COX to prostaglandin E3. A
natural anti-inflammatory agent, prostaglandin E3 competitively inhibits the effects
of the arachidonic acid conversion to prostaglandin E2, a highly inflammatory
“Prostaglandin E3 also inhibits the synthesis of TNF-a and IL1b, both of which
are inflammatory cytokines.”

“The EPA and DHA can inhibit the 5-LOX pathway, which converts
arachidonic acid to inflammatory leukotrienes.”
When EPA and DHA are incorporated into articular cartridge chondrocyte cell
membranes, there is a dose-dependent decrease in the expression and activity of
the enzymes that degrade cartilage.
Omega-3 EFA, found in fish oil, can directly reduce the degenerative enzymes
and reduce the inflammation in synovial cartilage.
Belching may occur if fish oil supplements are not taken with meals.
“Persons on a regimen of anticoagulant medications should not take omega-3
EFAs because of the possibility of increasing the bleeding potential.”

Fun Omega-3 practical studies

Omega 3 Fatty Acid's Role in Preventing Breast Cancer
BioMed Central: Cancer, June 30, 2009; 9: 216
After adjusting for confounding variables in postmenopausal subjects:
1) Consuming more than 101 mg of EPA/day decreased breast cancer risk by
62% compared to the reference group.
2) Consuming more than 213 mg of DHA/day decreased breast cancer risk by
68% compared to the reference group.
[The reference group consumed less than 14 mg of EPA and 37 mg of DHA per day]

Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease
Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care
Volume 7(2) March 2004 pp 131-136

1) Marine n-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, prevent
fatal myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death by their antiarrhythmic effects,
by their effect on infarct size, by plaque stabilization, and by improvements in
endothelial functions.
2) A cardioprotective effect of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-derived n-3 fatty acid,
has not been clearly demonstrated.
3) Eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, but not alpha-linolenic acid,
prevent sudden death and other cardiovascular catastrophes.
4) Rodents can convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3 from plants) to EPA
(20:5n-3 from fish) and EPA to DHA (22:6n-3 from fish) through desaturation and
elongation; but in humans, this process does not occur at a quantitatively or
biologically relevant degree.
5) Humans cannot obtain an adequate amount of EPA of DHA from dietary
alpha-LNA, even if they take 6.3 g/day alpha-LNA for 2 years.
6) Because of their poor interconversion, alpha-LNA, EPA, and definitely DHA are
each essential fatty acids by themselves for humans, and each need to be ingested
7) Plant sources of n-3 fatty acids does not achieve the cardiovascular benefit
noted for EPA plus DHA.

Omega 3 Fatty Acid Treatment in Autism
Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Volume 19, Number 4, August 2009, pp. 449–451
In this study, 9 autistic children aged 4–7 years old with autistic spectrum
disorder were given supplements containing 380mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and
180mg of docosahexaenoic acid (omega-3s) per day for 12 months. [This is a total
EPA + DHA of 560mg per day; this is a light amount, as some studies use 10,000
mg / day]. 8/9 (89%) showed improvement of about 33%, and this improvement was
usually documented within 6 weeks.

Omega-3 Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake Inversely Associated With 12-Year Progression to Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Archives of Ophthalmology, Vol. 127, No. 1, January 2009
“Participants reporting the highest baseline consumption of omega-3 LCPUFAs
were approximately 30% less likely than their peers reporting the lowest omega-3
LCPUFA consumption to develop advanced age-related macular degeneration by the
end of the 12-year follow-up period.

The Emerging Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Psychiatry
Omega-3 fatty acid status in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids
Volume 75, Issues 4-5, October-November 2006, Pages 299-308
“The frequency of skin/thirst symptoms was found to be higher in the ADHD
group, and the omega-3 fatty acids were found to be lower in the [ADHD] cases
versus the matched controls.”
“Several essential nutrients play a role in the biosynthesis and/or metabolism
of LC-PUFA and thus status of these nutrients may impact omega-3 fatty acid
proportions in membranes. Additionally, suboptimal status of several of these same
nutrients has been implicated as playing a role in ADHD, and these include
magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamin B6.”

Omega-3 Treatment of Childhood Depression: A Controlled, Double-Blind Pilot Study
American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2006
The subject children received two 500 mg of omega-3 or one 1,000 mg of
omega-3 oil daily. The 1,000 mg active capsules contained 400 mg eicosapentanoic
acid and 200 mg docosahexaenoic acid per 1,000 mg capsule. [Notice: 2/1 ratio of
EPA/DHA] The 500 mg of omega-3 contained 190 mg eicosapentanoic acid and 90
mg docosahexaenoic acid. [Notice: 2.5/1 ratio of EPA/DHA]
“Among the children on omega-3 treatment, seven out of 10 had a greater
than 50% reduction in CDRS scores.”
“Of those on placebo, zero out of 10 had a greater than 50% reduction in
CDRS scores.”
Four out of 10 children in the omega-3 group met the remission criteria of a
CDRS score, while no subject in the placebo group met the criteria.

Christopher Pierce, DC - The Bicycle Chiropractor
222 SE 8th Ave Portland, OR 97214


  1. wow THANK you for taking the time to write this!! so, in conclusion, if you are a teen vegan, deathly ill, and needing 3000 mg of EPA, you are screwed? i mean, i can't afford to take 20 pills of something, no matter how cheap it is... would you have any suggestions for how one could try? not sure if you have time to answer questions, but i'm nicole, and my email address is bitemeback@live.com (from my blog, bitemeback.blogspot.com). thanks a bunch :D.

  2. Thanks, Nicole for the comment & question. I'm sorry for the delay as I just found this comment. As I mentioned earlier, humans are incredibly inefficient at converting ALA from any source to EPA & DHA. About 97% inefficient. That spells trouble for any human trying to consume the basic nutritional building blocks for nerve cell repair (EPA) and nerve cell growth (DHA). There are many recommendations I can give for a non-vegan diet yet none I can give for a vegan diet, period.

  3. This is a very informative post! I have learned a lot from this. Diet is very important if one wishes to live a healthy lifestyle