Chances are good that your patients are already familiar with omega-3 fatty acids.
But it may surprise your patients to learn that the very nutrients they hope will help could, in fact, hurt them.
Although omega-3 supplements are readily available almost everywhere, from a patient’s perspective there is little differentiation among them as to what marks a high-quality product.
And, unfortunately, the quality of omega 3s, most available in oil forms that may have been harshly processed and have a great likelihood of going rancid, is often open to question.
There’s no doubt that the sources of fish used in the processing of omega 3s matter. A single source, like salmon, is generally best. But sourcing isn’t the only thing that’s important. Whether the supplement has been tested to verify its purity is a must.
Testing and purity
There are several levels of testing that are required to assure the quality of a marine oil and extracts from marine sources. There must be an evaluation of heavy metal content. There must also be an evaluation of contaminant exposure, like PCBs and residual pesticide components.
All ocean fish have some level of contamination; people have been poor stewards of the environment. Unfortunately, the location of the fish harvest is no guarantee of purity— the proof is in the testing, no matter where or how a fish was obtained.
Along with purity, the form of an omega-3 supplement can add value for your patients, too. The typical extraction processes for fish oils twist the DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids out of shape, and then bind them to triglyceride oils.
But cells in the body naturally prefer DHA and EPA bound to phospholipids, which boost the absorption of omega 3s and are deeply connected with specific fatty acids. For instance, DHA is typically connected to phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and phosphatidylserine (PS), and EPA is associated with phosphatidylinositol (PI) in the brain.1
So selecting a phospholipid-bound omega-3 supplement that’s been tested for purity, is more stable than oils, and procured from a single source—like salmon—makes the most sense.
Because this form is more stable, it virtually guarantees compliance. This is a real bonus for patients who have struggled with fish oil because they don’t like fishy-tasting burps or are so hit-and-miss with their supplementation schedule that the oil goes rancid.
The absorption of omega 3s is much better with phospholipids than triglyceride-bound oils as well—it is simply a more natural fit for the body. And dosage levels of this form of omega-3 supplement, because of superior absorption, are low; only two capsules are needed per day. That’s a far cry from traditional oils, and it links back to better compliance as well.
A big difference
So, what goes into making a cleaner form of omega 3s from salmon? A unique process pioneered by French researchers at the Nancy-Université.
This process uses water and enzymes immediately following the catch—no intensive heat or harsh solvents that would otherwise damage or alter the natural structure of the omega 3s and other beneficial compounds.
That means that the supplement supplies a wealth of phospholipids and peptides.2
And that makes a big difference.
Consider a 2006 in-vitro study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry. Researchers pre-treated neuronal cells with DHA from this phospholipid-bound omega-3 source for 48 hours before exposing these cells to soluble oligomers of amyloid-beta peptide, which are known to cause the brain cell damage associated with Alzheimer’s.
The DHA pretreatment greatly increased neuronal survival and reduced damage. The researchers concluded that “Such neuroprotective effects could be of major interest in the prevention of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.”3
Fish oil and, to a lesser extent, krill oil have been a standard for supplementation for a while, so it may be a challenge for patients to consider a different form. But even though fish oil provides DHA and EPA, those essential fatty acids are prone to rancidity and it can be difficult for people to get the levels they need from that source.
And while krill oil can provide omega 3s and some phospho- lipids, its processing also changes the configuration of the DHA and EPA so it is less viable. It also doesn’t provide the heart and neuron-protecting peptides found in the phospholipid-bound form from salmon.
The benefits of having phospholipids as an inherent part of the supplement really can’t be discounted—it potentially makes what would otherwise be a standard omega-3 recommendation into a multi-nutrient addition to a patient’s regimen. The phospholipids provided by omega 3s from salmon reads like a “who’s who” of nutrients:
Phosphatidylcholine (PC): protects the “engine” of your cells—the mitochondria—from oxidative damage.
Phosphatidylethanolamine (PE): helps build the myelin sheath around nerve cells to keep nerve signals firing properly.
Phosphatidylinositol (Pl): plays a major role in nerve and brain signals, helping to keep your brain healthy and your mood positive.
Sphingomyelin (Sph): a strong supporter of overall brain health.
Phosphatidylserine (PS): one of the most widespread phospholipids, often recommended as a standalone supplement for brain health.
Without a doubt, omega-3 fatty acids have shown remark- able benefits. Essential fatty acids hold cells together and protect them against invaders. EPA and DHA from fish oil improve heart health and blood profiles, relieve pain through anti-inflammatory action, enhance immunity, elevate mood, alleviate the symptoms of ADHD and menstrual pain, promote brain and vision development in infants and children, and help treat depression.4-9
A diet rich in omega 3s has been well-established as being truly essential. But they are only valuable if they are bioavailable and not oxidized. If you have patients who have struggled with keeping an omega-3 regimen, it may be time to rethink the delivery of these nutrients with a clean, pure, and effective source for consistent, ongoing benefits. This phospholipid-bound form of omega-3s from salmon can help reset your patients’ experiences and expectations as they notice concrete results on their path to optimal health.
Terry Lemerond is a natural health expert with more than 40 years of experience. He has owned health food stores, founded dietary supplement companies, and formulated more than 400 products. A published author, he appears on radio, television, and is a frequent guest speaker. He can be contacted through europharmausa.com.
1 Dyall SC. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015;7:52.
2 Analysis at Nancy-Université, INPL-ENSAIA; Laboratoire de Science et Genie Alimentaires, Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, France.
3 Florent S, Malaplate-Armand C, Youssef I, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid prevents neuronal apoptosis induced by soluble amyloid-beta oligomers. J Neurochem. 2006;96(2):385-95.
4 Hendler SS, ed. (2008). “Fish Oils.” PDR for Nutritional Supplements. 2nd ed. (pp. 208-214). Montvale, NJ: Physician’s Desk Reference.
5 Kendall-Tackett K. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and women’s mental health in the perinatal period and beyond. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2010;55(6):561-7.
6 Rocha Araujo DM, Vilarim MM, Nardi AE. What is the effectiveness of the use of polyunsaturated fatty acid omega-3 in the treatment of depres- sion? Expert Rev Neurother. 2010;10(7):1117-29.
7 Chang JP, Chen YT, Su KP. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (n-3 PUFAs) in Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) and Depression: The Missing Link? Cardiovasc Psychiatry Neurol. 2009;2009:725310. Epub 2009 Sep 27.
8 Parmentier M, Al Sayed Mahmoud C, Linder M, Fanni J, et al. Polar lipids: n-3 PUFA carriers for membranes and brain: nutritional interest and emerging processes. Oleagineux, Corps Gras, Lipides; 2007;14(3):224-9.
9 Bourre JM. Roles of unsaturated fatty acids (especially omega-3 fatty acids) in the brain at various ages and during aging. J Nutr Health Aging. 2004; 8(3):163-74.