Vegans and Vegetarians Finally Have a Couple of Good Options
Quite a few customers have called asking about vegan alternatives for fish oil.
Before I give them options, I first must have the Flaxseed-oil-is-virtually-useless talk. People are usually disappointed and surprised that Flaxseed isn’t a substitute for fish oil. One pleasant fellow recently hung up the phone when I gave him this news.
After the Flaxseed oil discussion, I steer people towards algae oil.
Until recently, taking algae oil meant getting mostly DHA with very little if any EPA Omega-3. If you don’t eat fish or fish oil, algae oil is a blessing. So people don’t complain about the cost. They’re happy to pay a premium that allows them to remain vegans and yet gives them the benefit of taking fish oil pills.
It’s a win-win.
Still, many consumer who buy algae oil will eventually ask the following questions:
- Where’s the EPA? Well, the algae species (grown in vats) used to make Omega-3 produce mostly DHA. They don’t generate much EPA.
- Most fish oils have more EPA than DHA, should I be worried that I’m not getting enough EPA Omega-3? No need to be worried. Your body can convert small portions of DHA into EPA. So you won’t be EPA deficient.
But if you want non-fish derived EPA, you were out of luck.
Not any more.
There are a couple of new products on the market worth a look:
I have tried both products. And like them both. But I prefer one over the other – keep reading.
450 mg Omega-3 Per Pill
This is a brand new item, just launched in April 2011.
This product is made from algae. Except, unlike older algae oil products, this one has both EPA and DHA. Each pill has 320 mg DHA and 130 mg EPA for a total fo 450 mg Omega-3 per pill.
That’s 2.5X more DHA than EPA. But still, 130 mg of EPA is more than we’ve ever had in any algae oil. So, hurray!
I bought 60 pills for $19.99 and $5.99 shipping for a total of $25.98. I bought it at drugstore.com. The product arrived within a day or two of ordering.
I opened the bottle and stuck my nose in it. Funky. But no funkier than most fish oil bottles. I’ve been taking 3 pills every morning for about a week and I’ve not had any issues with burping or reflux.
Futurebiotics New Harvest EPA
600 mg EPA Omega-3 Per Pill
This product was introduced last year and is just gaining distribution.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you need to try this product. It’s not made from algae, but yeast. I bought a 30-capsule box for $16.99 + $4.95 shipping for a total of $21.94.
It’s got 600 mg of EPA Omega-3 per softgel. There is 1200 mg of oil per pill so the strength is 50% Omega-3. 50% would be mid-pack for fish oil. But for vegetarian Omega-3 sources, 50% is great!
Two of these pills and you’d get 1200 mg of EPA. Wow! Again, not bad for non-fish-derived oils.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I prefer EPA to DHA. The folks at Futurebiotics illustrate this very well with the following graphic.
Percent Change in LDL Cholesterol after 600 mg each of EPA, DHA or Placebo (Olive oil)
In this study, 110 healthy people were given olive oil or EPA or DHA for 6 weeks. 600 mg of DHA Omega-3 showed about 14% increase in LDL Cholesterol.
Source: Gillies, P. “The New Science of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Differential Nutritional Pharmacology” Texas Human Nutrition Conference, Texas A&M University, February 2010.
DHA Omega-3 increases LDL (bad) cholesterol a little bit. EPA does not. If you’re taking Omega-3 to moderate cholesterol and triglycerides, you need to know this. Not surprisingly, between the two products, I prefer New Harvest EPA.
This product also has a better antioxidant brew: rosemary extract, Vitamin E and ascorbyl palmitate. Nice.
The obligatory nose-in-the-bottle test passed although the odor reminded me a wood shop.
Just Can’t Help Spooking People
The marketing materials and websites of both products try very hard to put fish-phobia into you. ‘None of the unhealthy fats or toxins found in fish’ says one. ‘100% free of ocean-borne pollutants,’ ‘free of allergens associated with fish,’ and ‘nothing fishy,’ says the other.
Fear is a powerful (and profitable) weapon. Or may be it was just lazy marketers feeling pressured to justify charging a higher retail price.
Either way, fear-mongering is not needed. These are both great products that will attract flocks of vegans and vegetarians. I’ve already recommended it to my vegetarian relatives.
And, oh, after these two products, now there is absolutely NO REASON to take flaxseed oil.
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About the Author: Vin Kutty, MS, is co-founder of Innovix Pharma. He is a nutritionist, author, and Omega-3 expert with 20 years of experience.