Data from 165 vegans showed their omega-3 index was about 3.7%, which was similar to what was measured in omnivores, report scientists from the University of San Diego, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of South Dakota and OmegaQuant Analytics.
The omega-3 index is a measure of the fatty acid level in red blood cells and reflects the long-term absorption of EPA and DHA. It was first proposed in 2004 as a “novel, physiologically relevant, easily modifiable, independent and graded risk factor for death from CAD” (Prev Med. Vol. 39, pp. 212-20.)
“We conclude that the majority of long-term vegans appear to be relatively low in DHA and EPA deficiencies, but whether this leads to adverse health effects is unclear,” the researcher wrote in Clinical Nutrition.
“It is possible that low-dose DHA and EPA supplements from algae could mitigate the potential adverse effects of deficiency in this population.”
Do vegans need omega-3 fatty acids? .
The subject of EPA and DHA intake for vegetarians and vegans was discussed last year at the 6th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition at Loma Linda University. As reported by NutraIngredients-USA at the time, delegates were told by successive speakers that vegans and lacto-ovo-vegetarians (who do not eat fish), despite their low levels, are significantly less likely to develop heart disease than their non-vegetarian counterparts – or zero – Ingestion of EPA and DHA.
There is also no evidence that vegans and vegetarians are at higher risk for depression, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive problems.
The cardio benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet could be attributed to the fact that they typically consume more fiber, less saturated fat, fewer calories, and more cardio-protective phytochemicals and healthy plant-based fats (including omega 3) Consume fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA from walnuts, flaxseed, and other sources), researchers said.
Sujatha Rajaram, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at Loma Linda University, noted that there is some evidence that ALA has heart health benefits beyond switching to EPA and DHA, and that ALA has an independent but often overlooked health has benefits.
The new study did not discuss the need for supplements only if the omega-3 index could be effectively increased in vegans classified as EPA and DHA deficient.
Led by Barbara Sarter of the University of San Diego, researchers measured the omega-3 index in a cohort of vegans and compared it to a cohort of US Army soldiers (omnivores) who were given military rations. The data showed that the mean omega-3 index values were similar, being 3.7% for vegans and 3.5% for soldiers.
The variation in omega-3 index values was wide among vegans, the researchers said. Two participants had omega-3 levels above 8%. In addition, the index was significantly higher in women than in men and was age-dependent.
A second study with 46 of the original 165 subjects was then included in the supplementation study and received vegan omega-3 supplements (Life’s DHA plus EPA from DSM Nutritional Products) at a dose of 243 mg EPA + DHA per day for four months.
The supplements were associated with an increase in the omega-3 index from 3.1% to 4.8% in the 46 participants.
Long history of safe use and a number of benefits.
Harry Rice, PhD, Vice President of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 Fatty Acids (GOED), commented on the results of the study to NutraIngredients-USA: “I think heart protection is important To determine EPA + DHA related benefits in vegetarians Given the long history of safe EPA + DHA use and the range of benefits (e.g. brain health, eye health, etc.), my personal opinion is that vegetarians add seaweed to their diet should. Omega-3 oil sourced. “
Source: Clinical Nutrition
Published online before going to press, doi: 10.1016 / j.clnu.2014.03.003
“Blood docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in vegans: Relationships with age and gender and the effects of an omega-3 fatty acid supplement obtained from algae”
Authors: B. Sarter, KS Kelsey, TA Schwartz, WS Harris