If you’re interested in diet and nutrition, omega 3 is a term you’ve probably heard. Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA); vital for the normal functioning of the human body and other mammals. Omega 3 acids are normally obtained from the food we eat, but sometimes we need to supplement our food with extra things to ensure a rounded and healthy diet. Often this is from fish oils, but algae omega 3 is also a great source.
Omega 3 fatty acids actually refers to a group of fatty acids. Humans require three types – ALA (α-linolenic acid), EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). We can use ALA to produce EPA and DHA, but we’re not very good at it. So it’s a good idea to intake foods containing all three types, to ensure we have enough of all the types.
Omega 3 is most frequently supplemented in humans’ diets with the fish oils. These fish oils are derived from the remains of marine creatures like sardines or salmon. Certain fish are very high in omega 3 fatty acids. This is not because they’re inherently high in omega 3, but because the fish had a diet high in omega 3 foods. For most small fish, this is because they consume algae high in omega 3.
One algae group that are particularly high in omega 3, are Schizochytrium micro algae. This algae omega 3 producer is what is used in most DHA and EPA algae omega 3 supplements. The algae omega 3 fatty acids can be harvested and concentrated into oil or capsules in a controlled laboratory environment. This bypasses the marine creature step, and is a more direct and controlled way in which to produce DHA and EPA, fit for human consumption.
Consuming algae omega 3 is a method of obtaining essential omega 3 nutrients but without consuming marine creatures like fish. This can be good if you’re vegan, vegetarian or want to reduce the amount of meat you eat. It’s also good if you have an allergy to fish or seafood. And it’s also great if you want the nutrition without the exposure to the environmental pollution that fish typically contain. Though if you eat small fish, you’re often exposing yourself to relatively low amounts of environmental contaminants like mercury. As seen in the following graph, based on the World Health Organisation’s Expert Consultation on the Benefits and Risks of Fish Consumption. It’s a double edged sword as fish generally provide good nutrition as a food source, but are contaminated with pollutants.
You can bypass concerns about pollution, by just considering algae omega 3 supplements as your source for omega 3 types DHA and EPA.
If you’re interested, read more about vegan omega 3 supplements on some of our other posts. They provide more info, reviews, and product recommendations for vegan omega 3 supplements, supporting a plant based diet.