Linseed Meal or Ground Flaxseed for Omega 3

I bought some linseed meal from Chemist Warehouse. Linseed (also known as flaxseed) is a good vegan source of omega 3. It is best to eat ground linseed as crushing linseeds releases nutrients. One tablespoon of linseed meal contains about 1500 mg of ALA. ALA gets converted in the body into DHA and EPA. One to two tablespoons per day of linseed meal will provide you with enough omega 3. Even though the conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA is low, there is so much ALA in linseed that it doesn’t matter. The recommended amount of DHA per day is about 100 mg. Another vegan source of DHA and EPA is algae oil. Most DHA supplements are derived from microalgae. A non-vegan source of DHA and EPA is fish, but fish also contains industrial pollutants such as mercury, DDT, dieldrin, microplastics, and other industrial toxins. Better to stick with the vegan sources of omega 3, namely ground linseed/flaxseed or microalgae based supplements.

Deva Omega 3 DHA-EPA

In theory vegans do not need to take omega 3 supplements because there are many vegan foods with omega 3 in them, such as chia seeds or ground flaxseeds. Dr Michael Gregor recommends two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds per day to get your omega 3 requirements. However, the form of omega 3 in most plant food is ALA (alpha linoleic acid). DHA and EPA (which are important for brain function) can be made by the body using ALA, but the concern by some is that the conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA is not efficient.

The main sources of DHA and EPA are algae or fish. Fish get DHA and EPA from eating algae. The main concern with eating fish is the risk of industrial pollutants such as mercury. To avoid any concern about mercury, I take DHA and EPA supplements purchased off iHerb. These supplements contain DHA and EPA from algae grown on land in controlled conditions ensuring no industrial contaminants.

I am personally using the Deva Omega 3 DHA-EPA I have purchased off iHerb, but if there is one criticism I have it is that they have a very fishy taste and the capsules seem moist when you touch it. I have tried other omega 3 supplements that don’t seem to have this issue, such as the Source Naturals vegan omega 3 brand.

 

Q&A: Is conversion of ALA to DHA inefficient?

Question:

Don’t we need DHA to be healthy? You cannot consume ALA and rely on it to give you DHA because conversion of ALA to DHA is poor. The science is there. We only convert about 4% of ALA to DHA, and for EPA plus DHA, only 12%. See the study below:

http://www.dhaomega3.org/Overview/Conversion-Efficiency-of-ALA-to-DHA-in-Humans

Answer:

Vegans can easily get DHA by taking microalgae-based DHA supplements. I recommend taking DHA and EPA supplements from Deva Nutrition. The Deva supplements contain about 130 mg of DHA per pill, and it is recommended you take one or two per day. Let’s just round it up and say we need 200 mg of DHA per day (there is actually no medical consensus on how much DHA you need per day).

Suppose you didn’t want to take DHA supplements because you couldn’t afford them. If conversion of ALA to DHA is 4% then that means we need 5 grams of ALA per day. 15% of chia seeds by weight is ALA, which means we only need 33 grams of chia seeds per day, which is about two tablespoons.

Should Vegans Take Omega 3 Supplements?

When I was a meat eater, I took fish oil supplements. Many people asked me why I didn’t eat fish, and even when I was a meat eater I was aware that fish is contaminated with mercury, cadmium, PCBs, microplastics, and flame retardants. Fish is not safe. However, fish oil supplement companies claimed that their products were tested for mercury, which gave me confidence. I have no idea whether fish oil supplement companies test for other waterborne contaminants such as PCBs, flame retardants, etc.

If you want omega 3 DHA and EPA in high quantities without taking supplements, you need to eat fish. The problem with eating fish is that fish is contaminated, so if you try to avoid supplements and eat fish because you somehow think that natural food is better, eating fish will actually ensure that you are supplementing your diet with mercury, dioxins, etc.

Supplements are the answer. Natural is not always better. If we lived in a world where we had clean oceans, we could rely on fish to provide DHA and EPA, but we don’t live in that world. For too many companies, it is more profitable to dump waste directly into the ocean than it is to dispose of it properly.

Now that I am vegan, I simply replace fish oil supplements with vegan DHA and EPA supplements derived from algae. I personally buy Source Naturals DHA and EPA supplements from iHerb.

When looking for omega 3 supplements, vegans should look for DHA supplements. If the supplements have both DHA and EPA in it, that’s fine, but DHA by itself is fine because EPA can be produced in the body from DHA and ALA.

Taking omega 3 in ALA form by itself (e.g. walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds) may not be sufficient because ALA can be converted into EPA, but it is unclear whether the body can adequately convert ALA into DHA. There are some studies that show that ALA can be converted into DHA just fine, but there are some that show the opposite. Just to be on the safe side, it’s best to take DHA supplements.

Just because ALA may not convert to DHA efficiently, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forget about ALA. There is evidence that ALA has health benefits in and of itself, so my recommendation to vegans is to take an EPA DHA algae oil supplement and to also eat food that is high in ALA, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Note that even though I take DHA EPA supplements, this is a personal preference. The only supplement that vegans absolutely must take is vitamin B12. Whether we need to take DHA and EPA is still up in the air. According to Dr Tom Sanders, a professor at the Department of Medicine in King’s College London, there is insufficient evidence to show that vegans and vegetarians should take EPA and DHA supplements.

Further Reading:

Jack Norris RD’s Omega 3 Fatty Acid Recommendations for Vegetarians