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Apr 16, 2014

Vegans Respond ‘Robustly’ to Algal-Derived Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement

New data supports the efficacy of an algal-derived omega-3 supplement to boost EPA and DHA levels.  

In a recent study it was found that while the omega-3 index of vegans is low, it is no lower than the levels measured in omnivores.  The omega-3 index is a measure of the fatty acid levels in red blood cells, and reflects long-term intake of EPA and DHA.  Scientists conclude that a majority of long-term vegans appear to be relatively deficient in DHA and EPA.  Whether or not this results in adverse health consequences is unclear. 
Do vegans need Omega-3s?
According to experts, vegans and lacto-ovo vegetarians (who don’t eat fish) are significantly less likely to develop heart disease than their non-vegetarian counterparts despite their zero or low intakes of EPA and DHA. There is also no evidence that vegans and vegetarians are at higher risk of depression, Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive problems. Researchers attribute the cardio benefits of a vegan diet to the fact that they consume more fiber, less saturated fat, fewer calories, more phytochemicals, and more plant-plant based healthy fats (including the omega fatty acid ALA from walnuts, flaxseed and other sources).
A recent study on the alga-derived omega-3 supplement found that it was successful in raising the omega-3 index in vegans classified as deficient in EPA and DHA.   Supplements were associated with an increase in the omega-3 index from 3.1% to 4.8%. The study did not focus on whether or not omega-3 supplementation is necessary for vegans.