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Vegan Omega-3 & Astaxanthin and Optimal Vegan Nutrition


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Veganism is on the rise due to growing concerns about the environment and perceived health benefits. However, certain nutrients such as EPA & DHA are difficult to obtain from plant-based diets. Until recently, the only supplemental source of long-chain omega-3s was fish oil. Igennus has recently launched a vegan omega-3 product which combines algae-sourced EPA & DHA with the additional benefit of astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.

In this hour-long webinar, Dr Danielle Crida discusses:

- The importance of omega-3s and the omega 6:3 ratio
- Vegan options for omega-3 supplementation
- Our new Vegan Omega-3 & Astaxanthin product
- How to assess omega-3 requirements and measure response to supplementation
- Ensuring optimal nutrition on a plant-based diet: common nutrient deficiencies and how to address them

Published in: Health & Medicine
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Vegan Omega-3 & Astaxanthin and Optimal Vegan Nutrition

  1. 1. Vegan Omega-3 & Astaxanthin and Optimal Vegan Nutrition Dr Danielle Crida MBChB, Dip Nutr. Nutritionist, Igennus Healthcare Nutrition 1
  2. 2. The importance of marine food “ Even during periods of bitter warfare the people from the mountain district would come down at night and place in caches delicious plants which grew only at the higher altitudes. They would return the following night to obtain the sea foods that were placed in the same caches by the people from the sea” Weston A Price
  3. 3. Importance of long-chain omega-3s DHA & EPA • Blood pressure • Triglycerides • Heart function • Brain function • Vision • Brain & vision – foetus & breastfed infants
  4. 4. Vegetarian, vegan & plant-based diets • ~10% UK vegetarian/vegan/ flexitarian • 700,000 vegans in UK Reasons: • Ethical • Environmental • Religious • Health • Trendy
  5. 5. Main dietary sources of omega-3 – short- vs. long-chain Short-chain (ALA, SDA) • Seeds - e.g. flax, chia • Seed oils - e.g. flaxseed oil • Nuts - e.g. walnuts Long-chain (DHA, EPA) • Oily fish - e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies
  6. 6. Short- to long-chain omega-3 conversion ALA SDA ETA EPA DHA • Short-chain omega-3s convert extremely poorly to EPA & DHA • ALA - 8% • SDA - 30% Influenced by: • lack of micronutrient cofactors • age • gender • medical conditions • omega-6 in diet
  7. 7. Omega 6:3 ratio and imbalance • High ratio = pro-inflammatory • Imbalance counteracts some health benefits of diet • Omega-6 sources plentiful (nuts & seeds, oils, grains) • Limited dietary sources of EPA & DHA
  8. 8. Omega-3 supplements Seed oils e.g. flaxseed Mostly ALA Echium seed oil SDA & ALA (& ‘good’ omega-6, GLA) Fish oil EPA only DHA & EPA DHA only Algae oil DHA only EPA & DHA Max ratio 1:2 ALA SDA ETA EPA DHA
  9. 9. Omega-3 supplements Seed oils e.g. flaxseed Mostly ALA ALA SDA ETA EPA DHA
  10. 10. Omega-3 supplements Echium seed oil SDA & ALA (& ‘good’ omega-6, GLA) ALA SDA ETA EPA DHA
  11. 11. EPA raising capacity of 1000mg of plant seed oils Flaxseed oil Echium seed oil Hempseed oil LA (omega-6) 13.3% 14.6% 56% GLA (omega-6) 0% 11.2% 4% ALA (omega-3) 55.8% 32.5% 22% SDA (omega-3) 0% 14.4% 2% ALA to EPA (8%) 45mg 26mg 1.76mg SDA to EPA (30%) 0mg 43mg 0.6mg TOTAL EPA (mg) 45mg 69mg 2.4mg
  12. 12. Omega-3 supplements: long-chain Fish oil EPA only DHA & EPA DHA only Algae oil DHA only DHA & EPA Max ratio 2:1 ALA SDA ETA EPA DHA
  13. 13. Algae oil • Only plant-based source of long-chain omega-3 • Algae = primary source of DHA & EPA in marine food chain (not fish !)
  14. 14. Algae oil • Schizochytrium species microalgae • Grown in closed system on land – contaminant free and does not disrupt ocean ecosystem • Initially available as DHA only, now available as DHA & EPA with ratio 2:1 • EPA-rich algae oil does not yet have novel food approval
  15. 15. Sustainability • Not possible to fulfil EPA & DHA requirements of world population from fish alone • Microalgae use carbon as energy source – offset excess carbon dioxide in environment • Thrive in deserts where farming is not possible • Algae not used for oil is used for other products - e.g. animal feed
  16. 16. Good at raising omega-3 index • 12-week intervention 254mg/day algae DHA & EPA Omega-3 index increased from 3.1 to 4.8. 87% achieved omega-3 index of >4% after supplementation.(Sarter et al. 2015) • 8-week intervention with 940mg/day algae DHA saw omega-3 index increasing from 4.8 to 8.4% with DHA rising from 4.4 to 7.9% and EPA from 0.41 to 0.48%, suggesting retroconversion (Geppart et al. 2005)
  17. 17. Supplemental EPA vs DHA • DHA: structure • EPA: inflammation & immunity • Almost all of us have lower levels of EPA than DHA • DHA proven in pregnancy for foetal brain & eye development but EPA: o helps DHA cross placenta and incorporate into foetal brain cells (Greenberg et al. 2008) o counteracts pro-oxidant high dose standalone DHA o counteracts naturally pro-inflammatory pregnancy environment o Higher AA:EPA ratio increases pre-eclampsia & preterm labour
  18. 18. Who is algae oil for ? • Vegans • Vegetarians • Fish allergy/side effects • Environmentally-focused • Those wanting DHA-rich product o Pregnancy o Breastfeeding o Young children o Eye conditions
  19. 19. Who is algae oil not for ? • Those wanting an EPA only or EPA-rich oil o Inflammation o Immunity o When initiating supplementation o Proven low EPA in relation to DHA • Cost
  20. 20. Introducing : Igennus Vegan Omega-3 & Astaxanthin • 100% plant-based DHA & EPA • Combined with astaxanthin • High strength 55% omega-3 (higher than standard fish oil but not as concentrated as Igennus fish oils) • Nature-identical triglyceride form for high bioavailability • Naturally free from contaminants • Superior to short-chain omega-3 plant products • Sustainable
  21. 21. Nutritional information Per capsule Per dose Omega-3 algae oil 645mg 1290mg Of which docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) 200mg 400mg Of which eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) 100mg 200mg Rosemary extract 2mg 4mg Tocopherols 1.42mg 2.8mg Ascorbyl palmitate 0.2mg 0.4mg AstaPure® Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae (10% astaxanthin complex) 5.25mg 10.5mg of which astaxanthin 0.5mg 1mg of which lutein 4.5mcg 9mcg of which canthaxanthin 2.5mcg 5mcg of which zeaxanthin 0.375mcg 0.75mcg of which violaxanthin 0.0625mcg 0.125mcg
  22. 22. Nutritional information & dosage • Free from: fish, dairy, gluten, lactose, soya, yeast, artificial colours and flavours; not tested on animals; non-GMO • Halal & kosher • Easy to swallow capsules • Dosage: o Adults & children aged 12+: take 1 capsule twice daily. (600mg) o For intensive support, the dose can be increased to 4 capsules daily. (1200mg) o Children aged 6-12 yrs: 1 capsule daily. (300mg)
  23. 23. Igennus Vegan Omega-3 vs other supplements Per dose Per 1 gram oil Vegan omega-3 Vegan omega-3 Krill oil (1) Cod liver oil (2) Fish body oil (3) EPA & DHA (%) 55% 55% 23% 21% 30% DHA 400mg 298mg 60mg 80mg 120 EPA 200mg 149mg 128mg 80mg 180 Astaxanthin 1mg 75mcg 50mcg - - (1)(2)(3) = specific examples of commonly available brands online/high street brands
  24. 24. Benefit of added astaxanthin • Astapure ®:natural extract from H.pluvialis microalgae • Contains astaxanthin and other beneficial carotenoids • Nature’s most potent antioxidant • Twice the astaxanthin of krill oil • Protects the algae oil from oxidation and protects cells from oxidative stress and damage by free radicals • DHA more susceptible to oxidation than EPA – algae oil is DHA-rich
  25. 25. Omega-3 & Astaxanthin: Research 1. Combined fish oil and astaxanthin supplementation modulates rat lymphocyte function : The combination of astaxanthin and fish oil could be a good strategy to prevent oxidative stress induced by polyunsaturated fatty acids and also to potentiate immuno- modulatory effects of fish oil. (Otton et al., 2012) 2. Combined astaxanthin and fish oil supplementation improves glutathione-based redox balance in rat plasma and neutrophils. Beneficial effect of fish oil plus astaxanthin on immune competence (redox balance, lower free radical generation, better white blood cell function) reinforces the hypothesis that habitual consumption of omega-3 and astaxanthin lowers risk of vascular and infectious diseases. (Barros et al., 2012)
  26. 26. Igennus Vegan Omega-3 & Astaxanthin in pregnancy • DHA contributes to normal brain and eye development of foetus and breastfed infants in dose of 200mg/day in addition to recommended daily intake for omega-3 fatty acids (250mg DHA&EPA) • BUT pregnant women advised to have no more than 2 portions fish/week re potential contaminants – can’t meet targets without supplements • Some products focused on pregnancy use DHA only or a low daily dose • Benefits of additional EPA: o Helps DHA cross placenta o Counteracts pro-oxidant effect of high dose standalone DHA on placenta o Counteracts naturally inflammatory pregnancy state o Higher AA:EPA ratio increases pre-eclampsia & preterm labour • Anti-oxidant benefit of astaxanthin in naturally pro-oxidant pregnancy environment
  27. 27. • Opti-0-3 finger-prick test • Omega-3 index • Omega 6:3 ratio • AA:EPA ratio • Personalised product recommendation • Personalised dosage recommendation • Monitoring response to supplementation Measuring omega-3 status & requirements
  28. 28. Still a place for Echium seed oil ? • Contains GLA good for skin (anti-ageing, smoothing, hydrating, anti-inflammatory, repair), hair, PMS symptoms • Contains oleic acid (anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular) • Converts more to EPA than DHA – EPA-depleted who can’t take fish oil • Favourable effect on cholesterol by different mechanism to long chain omega-3 (decreased total cholesterol and LDL, VLDL) • Effect of Echium oil compared with marine oils on lipid profile and inhibition of hepatic steatosis in LDLr knockout mice. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-12-38 • Consumption of echium oil increases EPA and DPA in blood fractions more efficiently compared to linseed oil in humans. doi: 10.1186/s12944-016-0199-2 • The impact of polyunsaturated fatty acid-based dietary supplements on disease biomarkers in a metabolic syndrome/diabetes population. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-13-196 • Metabolism of stearidonic acid in human subjects: comparison with the metabolism of other n-3 fatty acids. doi:10.1093/ajcn/77.5.1140
  29. 29. Optimal vegan nutrition – focus on nutrient deficiencies
  30. 30. Vegan nutrient deficiencies in UK Almost inevitable • long-chain omega-3 – EPA & DHA • vitamin B12 • vitamin D • iodine Possible • calcium • iron • vitamin K2 • zinc
  31. 31. A word about short-chain omega-3 & 6 (long-chain EPA & DHA covered already) Good sources of ALA (short-chain omega-3) • flaxseeds & flaxseed oil • chia seeds • hemp seeds • walnuts Sources of LA (short-chain omega-6) • vegetable (seed) oils • grains • grain-fed animal products • nuts e.g. almonds • seeds e.g. sunflower • processed food • fried foods • excess omega-6 further decreases conversion of ALA to EPA & DHA
  32. 32. Vitamin B12 • Important for methylation, amino acid, fatty acid & cholesterol metabolism, red blood cell production & DNA synthesis and nervous system function • Deficiency causes fatigue, anaemia, neuropathy, cognitive difficulties, shortness of breath • B12 is stored and recycled in the body so can take years to manifest • Only reliable source of B12 for vegans – fortified foods or supplements Solution: • All vegans need B12 • Cyanocobolamin not recommended • Methylcobolamin /adenosylcobalamin /hydroxocobalamin • Absorbed better in small regular doses than large doses • Reference intake: 2,5 mcg/day • Supplement: 10-1000 mcg/day • Blood testing: active vs total B12
  33. 33. Vitamin D • Important for immunity, hormone production, cognitive function and bones • Deficiency causes bone abnormalities and chronic disease • Mushrooms exposed to UV light contain vitamin D2 but levels decrease with storage and cooking Solutions: • All in UK should supplement Oct – March (at least !) • Reference intake: 10mcg (400IU)/day • Supplement: 10mcg(400IU) – 50mcg(2000IU)/day • Vitamin D3 more effective than D2 • Vegan D3 from lichen • Blood testing: 25-hydroxy vitamin D - from GP or private
  34. 34. Iodine • Important for thyroid function • Deficiency causes hypothyroidism and goitre in adults, cretinism in babies, abnormal cognitive development in children • UK does not iodise salt • Although plant foods provide iodine, amount present depends on the soil content • Sea vegetables rich in iodine but in unpredictable amounts Solution: • Half a teaspoon iodised salt per day, OR • 2 sheets nori/day, OR Supplement: • Reference intake: 150mcg/day • Supplement: 150mcg/day
  35. 35. Zinc • Important for immunity, wound healing, cognitive function, growth, protein & DNA synthesis and enzyme reactions • Deficiency causes poor immunity, lack of taste & smell, poor growth & development in children, skin rashes, cognitive problems • Phytates in grains, nuts & seeds and legumes bind zinc • Vegan diets naturally lower in zinc, high in phytates and high in copper (zinc-copper balance) Solution: • Good intake of zinc rich plant foods: legumes, seeds, nuts, wholegrains • Food preparation methods: soaking, sprouting, fermenting, cooking to minimise phytates • Optional supplementation up to 20mg/day
  36. 36. Vitamin K2 • Important for heart, bones & teeth • Vitamin K1 converted to K2 but inefficiently • Sources of K1 include green leafy and cruciferous vegetables, lentils, and some fruits, e.g. blueberries • Food sources: natto (!) • Less, variable amounts in sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha Solution: • A whole food, plant-based diet which includes fermented foods should provide enough vitamin K1 and keep your gut healthy for optimal vitamin K2 synthesis and total vitamin K absorption Supplementation may be beneficial • in ‘unhealthy’ vegan diets or vegans with gut health issues • if taking a calcium or high dose vitamin D supplement • if targeting heart, bone &tooth health
  37. 37. Calcium • Important for healthy bones, muscles, heart & blood vessels, nervous system and normal blood clotting • Deficiency causes bone disease in children and adults, muscle cramps and neurological problems • Sources include fortified plant milk & fruit juice, calcium-set firm tofu, blackstrap molasses, leafy greens, sesame & chia seeds, almonds, beans, oranges and dried figs • Calcium absorption inhibited by oxalates in raw spinach, chard, rhubarb and beet greens and by phytates in grains, nuts, seeds & legumes Solution: • Eat calcium-rich whole plant foods daily • Consider calcium-fortified soya milk • Lightly cook oxalate-rich foods, e.g. spinach or if eating greens raw choose kale or rocket • Soak, sprout, ferment and cook food to decrease phytates Supplementation may be beneficial • If tofu and fortified drinks cannot be consumed • In peri-menopausal period due to accelerated bone loss • If targeting bone health • Supplementation should ideally combine calcium with magnesium and vitamins D & K2
  38. 38. Iron • Important for haemoglobin • Deficiency causes fatigue, pallor, dizziness and shortness of breath • Vegan diets contain the less bioavailable non-haem iron • Sources include legumes, grains, nuts & seeds and leafy greens • Phytates, tannins & caffeine decrease iron absorption • Vitamin C increases iron absorption Solution: • Include a source of vitamin C with all meals • Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals • Soak, sprout, ferment and cook to decrease phytates • Only use high dose iron supplements if proven deficiency
  39. 39. Track your nutrient intake • Mobile apps, e.g. Cronometer, MyFitnessPal
  40. 40. Blood tests to consider • Opti-0-3 omega home finger-prick test • 25-hydroxy vitamin D (GP) • Active Vit B12 (holotranscobalamin) (private) • Iron Profile (GP/private)
  41. 41. Recommended for general vegan health Year round Winter top up
  42. 42. Summary: Vegan nutrition in UK Definitely supplement: • omega-3 EPA & DHA • vitamin B12 • vitamin D • iodine Consider supplementing: • calcium • iron • vitamin K2 • zinc
  43. 43. Summary: Vegan Omega-3 & Astaxanthin • 200mg DHA & 100mg EPA per capsule • Superior to short-chain plant omega-3 • Sustainable • Naturally free of contaminants • Ideal for vegans, in pregnancy and breastfeeding • Antioxidant benefits from astaxanthin
  44. 44. References • Barros M, et al. (2012) Combined astaxanthin and fish oil supplementation improves glutathione-based redox balance in rat plasma and neutrophils. Chem Biol Interact. 2012 Apr 15;197(1):58-67. • Botelho, P et al. (2013) Effect of Echium oil compared with marine oils on lipid profile and inhibition of hepatic steatosis in LDLr knockout mice. Lipids Health Dis. 2013; 12: 38 doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-12-38 • Craddock JC, Neale EP, Probst YC, Peoples GE. Algal supplementation of vegetarian eating patterns improves plasma and serum docosahexaenoic acid concentrations and omega-3 indices: a systematic literature review. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017 Dec;30(6):693-699 • Fokkema MR, Brouwer DA, Hasperhoven MB, Martini IA, Muskiet FA. Short-term supplementation of low-dose gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), alpha- linolenic acid (ALA), or GLA plus ALA does not augment LCP omega 3 status of Dutch vegans to an appreciable extent. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2000 Nov;63(5):287-92. • Geppert J, Kraft V, Demmelmair H, Koletzko B. Docosahexaenoic acid supplementation in vegetarians effectively increases omega-3 index: a randomized trial. Lipids. 2005 Aug;40(8):807-14. • Gerster,H. (1998) Can adults adequately convert alpha-linoleic acid to EPA & DHA ? Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998; 68(3):159-73 • Greenberg, J, Bell S & Van Ausdal W. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy. Rev. Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Fall; 1(4): 162-169. • Harris WS.Achieving optimal n-3 fatty acid status: the vegetarian's challenge... or not. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:449S-52S. • James, M., Ursin, V. Cleland, L. (2003) Metabolism of stearidonic acid in human subjects: comparison with the metabolism of other n-3 fatty acids. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:1140-5. DOI:10.1093/ajcn/77.5.1140 • Kuhnt, K. et al. (2016) Consumption of echium oil increases EPA and DPA in blood fractions more efficiently compared to linseed oil in humans. Lipids Health Dis. 2016 Feb 18;15:32. doi: 10.1186/s12944-016-0199-2. • Lee, T. et al (2014) The impact of polyunsaturated fatty acid-based dietary supplements on disease biomarkers in a metabolic syndrome/diabetes population Lipids Health Dis. 2014 Dec 16;13:196. doi: 10.1186/1476-511X-13-196 • Mattei R, et al. Astaxanthin limits fish oil-related oxidative insult in the anterior forebrain of Wistar rats: putative anxiolytic effects? Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Sep;99(3):349-55. • Messina, V. Vegan Nutrition Guide. Available from • Nichols PD, Petrie J, Singh S. Long-chain omega-3 oils-an update on sustainable sources. Nutrients. 2010 Jun;2(6):572-85. • Otton R, Marin DP, Bolin AP, de Cássia Santos Macedo R, Campoio TR, Fineto C Jr, Guerra BA, Leite JR, Barros MP, Mattei R. Combined fish oil and astaxanthin supplementation modulates rat lymphocyte function. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Sep;51(6):707-18 • Sarter B, Kelsey KS, Schwartz TA, Harris WS: Blood docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid in vegans: Associations with age and gender and effects of an algal-derived omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Clinical nutrition 2015, 34:212-218. • Rooke, J. (2013) Do carnivores need Vitamin B12 supplements ? Available from supplements/2013/10/30 • The Vegan Society. Calcium. Available from: • The Vegan Society. Nutrition overview. Available from: • The Vegan Society. Omega-3 & Omega-6 fats. Available from: 3%20%26%20omega-6%20fats%20PDF.pdf • The Vegan Society. Vitamin B12. Available from: • The Vegan Society. Iron. Available from: • Wang C, Harris WS, Chung M, Lichtenstein AH, Balk EM, Kupelnick B, Jordan HS, Lau J. n-3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not alpha-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;84(1):5-17. Review.
  45. 45. Commercial Technical Nutrition advice Mina Nazemi Commercial Director Dr Nina Bailey Head of R&D Danielle Crida Nutritionist Contact