Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that our bodies cannot produce themselves. It is therefore important to consume them regularly through food or through dietary supplements.
What is Omega-3 and why do we need it?
Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in cellular function, heart health, brain and vision (1) . These polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis (2) .
Difference between animal sources and vegan sources
Traditional sources of omega-3 usually come from fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Vegan sources, on the other hand, are plant-based and come from foods such as algae, hemp, walnuts and flaxseed (3) .
The importance of EPA and DHA
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids and have specific roles in the body:
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid): This fatty acid has anti-inflammatory properties and can therefore be helpful in treating conditions such as arthritis. It has also been shown to play a role in regulating mood disorders, particularly depression.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): DHA is a major component of the cell membranes in the brain and eyes and plays a critical role in the development and function of these organs. DHA deficiency during pregnancy and breastfeeding can have adverse effects on brain and eye development in the fetus or infant. (4.5)
The optimal ratio of EPA to DHA
The ideal ratio of EPA to DHA can vary depending on your health goals. Some experts recommend a 2:1 ratio (EPA:DHA) for general health purposes, while other studies suggest a 1:1 ratio for optimal heart health. However, it is important to emphasize that individual needs and ideal dosage may depend on various factors, including age, gender, health status and dietary habits. A consultation with a nutritionist or doctor is advisable to determine your personal needs.
Benefits of vegan omega-3
- Environmentally friendly: The production of plant sources of omega-3 has a smaller ecological footprint compared to fishing.
- Free from contaminants: Vegan sources often have less risk of containing contaminants such as mercury, which can be found in some types of fish. (6)
- Sustainable: Unlike overfishing, plant-based sources offer a sustainable option.
What do you have to pay attention to with vegan omega-3 supplements?
When purchasing vegan omega-3 supplements, it is important to ensure there are sufficient amounts of EPA and DHA. It is also advisable to choose a product that has been tested for purity and quality.
While the "best" supplements can be subjective and depend on individual needs, algae oil capsules are one of the preferred options for vegan DHA. For ALA, flaxseed oil or chia oil capsules can be considered.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health. While traditional sources come from fish, vegan sources such as seaweed offer a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative. When choosing a dietary supplement, it is important to pay attention to quality and purity.
Important note: We research our blog posts with the greatest possible care to help you live a life with the best quality of life. However, they do not replace advice from medically trained staff in the event of health problems.
If you regularly take various medications, you should consult your doctor before taking omega-3 capsules. This is particularly relevant for people taking blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants). Omega-3 fatty acids can inhibit the aggregation of blood platelets and thus increase the tendency to bleed. In such cases, an adjustment of the medication dose or combination may be necessary. It is therefore essential to seek medical advice in advance.
Simopoulos, A. P. (2008). The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 233(6), 674-688.
Calder, P.C. (2017). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man. Biochemical Society Transactions, 45(5), 1105-1115.
Lane, K., Derbyshire, E., Li, W., & Brennan, C. (2014). Bioavailability and potential uses of vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the literature. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 54(5), 572-579.
Martins, J.G. (2009). EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 28(5), 525-542.
Lauritzen, L., Hansen, HS, Jørgensen, MH, & Michaelsen, KF (2001). The essentiality of long-chain n-3 fatty acids in relation to development and function of the brain and retina. Progress in Lipid Research, 40(1-2), 1-94.
Foran, SE, Flood, JG, & Lewandrowski, KB (2003). Measurement of mercury levels in concentrated over-the-counter fish oil preparations: is fish oil healthier than fish? Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, 127(12), 1603-1605.