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New Omega-3 Options for Vegans

by Vin Kutty, MS on May 3, 2011

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.

vegetarian epa omega-3

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. Futurebiotics New Harvest EPA
  2. Ovega-3

I have tried both products. And like them both. But I prefer one over the other – keep reading.


Ovega-3

450 mg Omega-3 Per Pill

Vegetarian alternatives to fish oil

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.

Good product!


Futurebiotics New Harvest EPA

600 mg EPA Omega-3 Per Pill

yeast derived Omega-3
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.

Effect of Omega-3 on 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.

Tsk-tsk.

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.

DISCLAIMER: This information is for your education only. The contents of this blog do not constitute medical advice. This is merely an open discussion of the science behind health and nutrition. Please consult your physician for medical advice.

Author Vin Kutty is an expert on fish oil About the Author: Vin Kutty is OmegaVia’s Scientific Advisor and Chief Blogger. He is a nutritionist, author, and Omega-3 expert with over 20 years of experience. Email him.

pharmaceutical grade fish oil

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Mr. Omega 3 May 5, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Really Great news! Now there’s no excuse for vegans to not take omega 3.

Reply

B Walker January 24, 2012 at 7:06 am

FYI: The Ovega-3 not having Rosemary Extract is a very good thing for any women looking for s DHA/EPA supplement related to pregnancy or for women who have heavy menstrual cycles. Almost all non-fish derived DHA/EPA supplements have Rosemary Extract which can be dangerous during pregnancy (and can make it harder to get pregnant).
-Just a woman’s perspective on the matter

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Omegavia January 24, 2012 at 11:56 am

@B Walker – thank you! Did not know that Rosemary could interfere with pregnancy. We have removed Rosemary from our formulation – did not notice the anti-oxidant benefit that we thought we would.

Vin

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Vessi December 16, 2013 at 4:18 am

Hello, reading your comments about Rosemary Extract being removed from the formula made me order Ovega-3 as I am trying to get pregnant. I just received it and sadly your statements are not true. Rosemary extract IS listed under Other Ingredients on the label and I was told by my Dr. that Rosemary Extract is harmful while pregnant and not advisable even if you are just trying to conceive! I am not sure what to do now since I just wasted $20 for a product I can’t use. And I think you should stop spreading false information about it.

Reply

Vin Kutty December 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Hi Vessi – I was talking about OmegaVia when I saw ‘we have removed rosemary from OUR FORMULATION.’ I was not talking about Ovega3. I do not work for Ovega3. I have no association with them. Any reputable retailer should give you your money back if you are not happy with the product. Please read carefully before you accuse me of spreading false information about any product.

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Bee November 1, 2012 at 1:47 pm

What is the issue with rosemary extract?

Thank u for promoting a vegan product! That says a lot about the integrity of your company.

I like New Harvest, but the fillers worry me, particularly the Carrageenan, corn starch, and the sorbitol. Are these something to be concerned about, especially if taking 3 or so pills a day? Carrageenan raises cancer risks and sorbitol can give people GI upset.

What are the other fats that make up the remaining 600mg in the pill?

Reply

Vin Kutty November 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Hi Bee – there is no issue with Rosemary extract other than that we used to have it in our formula and it did not work as well as it was supposed to, so we removed it from our formula.

We have a lot of readers who are vegans or vegetarians, who need to pay more attention to their Omega-3 and Vitamin B intake. So, yes, we’ll be talking about any vegan alternatives that get developed. There are a lot of new algae oils being worked on by companies and the next 5 years should be great for vegans.

I would not spend a second worrying about carrageenan or sorbitol. If I were a vegan, I would take the New Harvest product. The risk of NOT taking Omega-3 is far, far higher than the risk of what these ingredients might or might not do.

I dont know what other fats are in the pill besides Omega-3. My guess is it’s a mix of several polyunsaturated fatty acids – again, nothing to worry about.

– Vin Kutty

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Bee November 1, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Thanks SO much! It’s exciting to know that there will be more vegan EPA sources in the near future! Are there any u can tell us about now?

I asked about the Rosemary extract bc of the reader above who said it is contradicted for pregnant woman..can u elaborate more on this?

Also, how much of the New Harvest would be good for anxiety/depression and inflammation?

Is the vegan source of EPA more absorbable than a fish oil source?

Thanks!

Reply

Vin Kutty November 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Hi again, Bee – there are about a half dozen companies trying to develop ‘algae technology’ to produce EPA, DHA or both. They are in their infancy, so it will be a few years before they are ready to market their oils.

Yeah, I have heard the same concern about rosemary and pregnancy. Not sure how much truth there is to it. Still, pregnancy is not a time to experiment.

For depression, I’d take 3-4 New Harvest EPA per day. It is not more absorbed than fish oil EPA – probably about the same.

– Vin Kutty

Reply

Bee November 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Thanks! Last question:

How do I balance out the EPA with DHA (since the New Harvest brand is only EPA)? Are there any food sources that I ought to focus on in order to not risk an imbalance of EPA:DHA? Or, should I take a DHA supplement (and if so, how many mg of DHA)?

What are possible side effects/health issues that can occur with taking a lot of EPA but no DHA?

Thanks!!!

Sam April 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Hi

I bought recently the ovega3 and i started taking for the past 3 days one pill per day as it says one pill per day and is it OK ti take 3 pills as you mentioned ?
can i take any milk with DHA content in the same day while i am taking the pills.
Last, can we have a glass of wine or beer with few hours gap of Ovega3?

Reply

Vin Kutty April 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Hi Sam – Ovega3 does not have much Omega-3, so you can definitely take 3 per day. That’s actually a good dose. Yes, you can take milk with DHA in it. There is hardly any DHA in DHA-supplemented milk anyway, so no worries. Alcohol does not interfere with Omega-3 absorption as far as I know. Since you brought it up, stick with wine. Beer is liquid wheat and wheat is one of the worst things you can put in your body – wheat proteins like gluten, gliadin, glutenin etc. trash your intestines and many other parts of your body.

Reply

Martha April 17, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Hi,

Thank you so much for this information!

Reply

RF May 5, 2013 at 2:17 am

Hi
I wanted to know hoe much potassium is there in ovega?
Since most Algae are rich in potassium, is this safe in patients with high potassium levels who need to follow low potassium diet?
Thanks

Reply

Vin Kutty May 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Hi RF – I don’t know. This is something you will have to contact Ovega customer service about. If you find out, please share with us. My guess is that there is very little potassium in the product, as potassium salts are generally water-soluble and Ovega only contains the oil extract from the sea weed.

Reply

kelly Devi September 30, 2013 at 4:07 am

Hi Vin,
My Doctor told me that I have fibroid in my uterus. can I take Ovega 3? I am vegetarian. I can’t eat fish oil, no egg no meat and gelatin & gluten.

Reply

Vin Kutty September 30, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Hi Kelly – Ovega3 is probably a very good idea. So is not eating gluten. But no egg is going to eventually get you in some trouble with Vitamin B12 deficiency. I’ll bet money that you already are.

Reply

Mehr October 9, 2013 at 6:35 am

Hi Vin,

I am a vegetarian and was thinking of starting on a marine algae derived omega 3 supplement? What are your thoughts on opti3 omega? how many of these should one take to get the benefits? Thanks.

Reply

Vin Kutty October 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Hi Mehr – if you’re vegan or vegetarian, something like this works: http://www.amazon.com/Deva-Nutrition-Vegan-DHA-EPA-Count/dp/B005R5CARY/

Opti3 is perfectly fine if that’s what’s available. Take 2 per day.

Reply

Mary Dax October 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Hello,
Can you compare Chia seed/Omega nutrition (amount of EPA/DHA) to Ovega 3 or Futurebiotics?

Thank you,

Mary Dax

Reply

Vin Kutty October 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Hi Mary – I would go with Ovega3 if you’re a vegan. The futurebiotics product is no longer available. Chia seed is fine to sprinkle over salads but it has no EPA or DHA. Chia only has ALA, which is not very well absorbed. So while Chia may be tasty and makes a good garnish, it is not a good source of Omega-3. If you eat fish, then you don’t need any of these products. Just get it from Salmon or some wild coldwater fish.

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Vin Kutty November 1, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Bee – if you’re a vegan, you should be thinking about taking a vegan DHA supplement as well. There are lots of those, made with Life’s DHA brand oil. It is made from algae. You only need about 100 mg of DHA per day, if that. Unless you’re pregnant, in which case, a lot more – like 500 to 1000 mg per day.

If you’re a vegan, it’s not a good idea to take JUST EPA and no DHA. Your body needs both. The body converts one to the other, but not very well.

– Vin Kutty

Reply

Bee November 2, 2012 at 11:04 am

Ok thanks…So I should take 3-4 New Harvest EPAs (1800-2400mg) and then find a DHA that has approx 100mg? That seems like a huge difference between the two, since most fish oils have closer range of EPA:DHA ratio

Reply

Vin Kutty November 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Hi Bee – how much EPA and DHA you need depends on your health and age. Like I said before, if you’re a chile or pregnant or nursing, you need a LOT of DHA. Otherwise, 100 mg to 200 mg of DHA is plenty for most people. EPA on the other hand is very handy to counter the inflammatory effects of consuming too much vegetable oil (they are rich in Omega-6.) Yes, most fish have somewhat equal parts EPA and DHA. Some have more EPA and others have more DHA. But when fish were created, nobody thought that we’d be consuming so much Omega-6 from processed foods and vegetable oils. You need EPA to offset the damage from the excess Omega-6. That’s why I suggest people take more EPA than what’s naturally found in fish. Hope this complicated (and somewhat delayed) response helps.
– Vin

Reply

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