Best Sources for Omega Oils
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), the leading trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, has filed this report on PCB contamination of fish oils:
Low levels of PCB’s (Polychlorinated biphenyl) can now be found throughout the world, “which means that all fish—whether fish found in oceans and rivers or fish oil supplements—contain at least trace amounts of PCBs.”
According to FishOilSafety.com, PCBs have “been officially recognized for 20 years as causing… reproductive toxicity, and studies show they are endocrine disruptors (for example, changing some fetuses from male to female in animal studies). These gender-bending properties of PCBs affect both physical characteristics and behavior.”
Fetuses, nursing infants and those with compromised liver function are particularly susceptible to these toxins. Children born to women who worked with PCBs in factories showed decreased birth weight and a significant decrease in gestational age with increasing exposure to PCBs.
PCB compounds are manmade industrial chemicals with a long track record of being some of the worst environmental pollutants known, posing some of the greatest threats to human health. Congress banned their manufacture back in 1979, but PCBs are extremely persistent in the environment (they don’t break down), and they accumulate up the food chain. Toxins consumed by small bottom feeder fish are eaten by the larger fish, and then fed to our livestock; ending up on our dinner plate and in our health food supplements.
The liver (fish liver being a source of Omegas) is the main detoxifying organ of the body and can easily become overloaded with the vast number of pollutants in our environment today. Many pollutants are drawn to, or deliberately stored in, the fats and oils of the body. Even after the fish oil industry attempts to remove PCBs, dioxins and other pollutants using state-of-the-art molecular distillation or absorbent technology, some PCBs remain in fish oils.
While the body of the fish itself will certainly contain higher amounts of PCBs and other pollutants than the fish oils or fish liver oils (especially among farmed fish products due to increased contaminates in their feed), no refining technique today has proven to remove 100% of all pollutants from fish oils.
Some pollutants, like PCBs and mercury can be tested for, and often are, but with over 65,000 chemicals known to be hazardous to human health entering our environment every year, most pollutants in our food chain are not going to be recognized. (Steven Schecter, N.D., author of Fighting Radiation and Chemical Pollutants With Foods, Herbs and Vitamins)
Because PCBs accumulate in the body and are found today in numerous areas of our food and environment, the FDA tolerance level for PCBs in fish, which is 2.0 parts per million (or 2,000 parts per billion), is not very comforting.
So, where do we turn for the best sources of Omega Oils?
Seaweeds and algae are the two main sources where fish originally obtain their Omega oils from. By reaching for seaweeds and algae when you want your Omega oils you will also receive a phenomenal array of additional nutritional benefits that fish oils cannot provide.
It is also good to know that seaweeds and algae do not accumulate PCBs and other chemicals like fish oils do. Seaweeds and algae are Nature’s solution for detoxifying our oceans, lakes and streams. Unless completely overwhelmed with an excessive load of radiation, heavy metals or chemicals, the minerals within sea vegetables and various microbial processes surrounding them will transform the toxins into harmless compounds. The oceans and waterways of the world possess remarkable rebalancing powers given a chance to do what they do best.
On the nutritional side, green algae like spirulina, chlorella, and wild blue-green contain more chlorophyll than any other foods. Dried micro algae are the richest source of proteins, beta-carotene, and nucleic acids (RNA and DNA), and a very rich source of GLA. GLA, an Omega 6 fatty acid, is key to the body’s ability to make vital prostaglandins, substances that control body functions and help alleviate health problems such as arthritis and heart disease, according to one preliminary report (Journal of Applied Phycology, 1993, vol. 5).
The primary reason for consuming the popular Omega 3 fatty acid ALA (alpha linolenic acid) found in flax and chia seed is not to get ALA, but to ultimately obtain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), both of which must be formed (manufactured) in the body from ALA if they are not obtained directly from a marine source. DHA, EPA and other fatty acids are essential for brain health along with numerous other benefits for the body.
Red Marine Algae
Red marine algae (like gigartina) are naturally high in EPA. EPA is an important Omega 3 essential fatty acid not commonly found in land plants (other than purslane). EPA helps with the elevation of moods and is the stepping stone in the body’s conversion of the Omega 3 ALA (alpha linolenic acid) into the Omega 3 DHA. (Cole and Sheath, (Ed.), Biology of the Red Algae)
Red & Brown Seaweeds
Both red and brown seaweeds (like gigartina and laminaria) contain ARA (arachidonic acid, an Omega 6 fatty acid) which supports the brain, muscle development, liver function and neurological health.
Most seaweeds and algae are naturally high in DHA. DHA and ARA are the two most abundant Omega fatty acids found in the brain, together composing approximately 20% of the brain’s fatty acid content. (Crawford, MA; Sinclair, AJ (1971). Nutritional influences in the evolution of mammalian brain)
The Discovery of Algae-based DHA & ARA
In the early 1980s, NASA searched for a plant-based food source that could generate both oxygen and nutrition on long-duration space flights. They discovered that marine algae were rich in minerals, phytonutrients and fatty acids. This research led to the development of an algae-based, vegetable-like oil that contains two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids: DHA and ARA. (Jones, John. Nutritional Products from Space Research)
The Range of Omega Oils Required for Optimal Health
- 11 kinds of Omega 3s (most prominent being ALA, EPA & DHA)
- 10 kinds of Omega 6s (most prominent being GLA & ARA)
- 7 kinds of Omega 7s (common source: Sea Buckthorn Oil)
- 5 kinds of Omega 9s (common sources: olive oil and mustard seed oils)
Best Sources for Omega 3s, 6s
A best source should include not just the Omega oils themselves, but a broad spectrum of other nutrients which work hand-in-hand with the fatty acids to deliver health to your body in numerous ways. Here are some top picks for this purpose (and yes, these are also preferred over krill oil due to their greater nutritional profiles):
- seaweeds and algae (spirulina, chlorella, blue green algae, laminaria, gigartina & other seaweeds)
- chia seed
- bee pollen
- purslane (also an abundant source of other nutrients)
Note: Flax seed, while quite popular, is less desirable due to its lower levels of broad spectrum nutrition than the previous mentions. There are also some problems in the digestive tract with long term usage.