Omega 3 – without fishy meddling

OMEGA 3 supplements are touted as a nutritional magic bullet, and the supporting evidence is certainly convincing. Numerous studies have shown that they play an important role in maintaining nerve health, and can improve brain function and memory. They also display impressive anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-busting capabilities. The benefits are attributed to two specific fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), found mainly in oily fish. But concern over the sustainability of intensive fishing and the concentration of environmental pollutants in fish products has left many in a pickle over how to reap the benefits of the essential fatty acids while avoiding the potential drawbacks.

The solution has come in the form of microscopic algae which contain concentrated amounts of both DHA and EPA, and are farmed in a far more sensible manner. Plant-based Omega 3s are passed up the food chain starting with the marine animals that eat the algae itself. The EPA and DHA are actually in the algae, and as you go up the food chain they continue to be passed on in the same form. Manufacturers have made good use of this discovery and algae oil (or algal oil) supplements are gaining in popularity as they are derived straight from the source — with fewer drawbacks than consuming fish. One study has demonstrated that algae oil is as effective as cooked wild salmon in increasing levels of DHA in the bloodstream after ingestion. In short, algae oil presents a more sustainable, cleaner, and readily absorbed way of boosting your intake of the good stuff. This has come as good news to those who are vegetarian or vegan, or have allergies to seafood and fish. The oil can be taken as liquid or in capsule form and has zero fishy aftertaste.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Lifestyle Magazine

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