by Mikaela DuffyiStock_000014105865XSmall
It is well known and documented that omega 3 oils are ‘essential’ fats, meaning they are necessary not only for cell membrane integrity and the entire nervous system, but to help reduce inflammation. Ever increasingly, inflammation is becoming recognised as the main cause of many health conditions and disease states by researchers.
Diet of course is always the best way, sourced from avocados, oily fish, raw nuts and seeds, and cold pressed oils. But if we are looking for a supplement in addition, how do we choose between what is on offer? Obviously each individual has choices to make with regards to their preferences, belief systems, ethics and health needs. As consumers, we are now more informed than ever, and are increasingly making ethical choices as well as ones that suit the wallet.
Cod liver oil, fish oil, krill oil and now algae sourced fats are available on the shelves, each providing arguments for why they are better than the others. So here are the differences briefly highlighted to help you sort through the maze of information –
Cod Liver Oil – a rich source of omega 3 (EPA/DHA), also rich in Vitamin D and A. These combined nutrients improve the immune system, skin integrity, and the mucous membranes of the digestive tract, lungs and urinary system. Think respiratory or skin conditions, or poor immunity. Helpful in winter for the Vitamin D component.
Fish oil – derived from deep sea fish, rich in omega 3 but quality varies depending on the source. The highest quality is reflected in the price. Good choice in pregnancy, for hormone imbalances, young children and those with inflammation such as nervous system disorders, joint problems/arthritis. Ethics, sustainability, quality and oxidation is always a question mark, as with any animal derived product.
Krill oil – from a shrimp-like crustacean found in all the oceans, fatty acids are attached to different components than regular fish oil, which suggest it is easier to absorb and therefore less is needed (reflected in the price difference). Krill oil is believed to be more beneficial in heart disease, Metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, elevated LDL cholesterol or CRP (found in blood tests). Questions over the sustainability of krill fishing, its impact on the food chain, and its consistency of fatty acid content due to harvesting methods are all issues.
Algae oil – the original source of the omega 3, the plant that the fish feed on to obtain the fats. Algae is still as yet relatively unproven, as only a small number of clinical trials have been carried out, but has shown to have a positive effect on inflammation, improving healthy cholesterol and reducing triglycerides thus far. Algae farms are a sustainable way to harvest omega 3 for supplements, and have been approved for adding into infant formulas, milks, fruit juices and sauces available on the shelves.
Another important point to remember is that whenever we take fish oils of any kind, there is a process of oxidation in the body, and the intake of antioxidant foods (brightly coloured veg and fruit, green powders etc) is important to offset the free radicals produced. For all these reasons, algae may well become the most popular choice for the average consumer.
Mikaela Duffy is a Naturopath and Nutritionist specialising in fertility care programs and infant health. For more info about Mikaela or to make an appointment click here.