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Vegan Omega-3 (ALA, EPA, DHA) Sources for Supplement Benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats for cardiovascular health and are found in a variety of foods such as fish, flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, and leafy vegetables. There are 3 commonly found omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).


Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: ALA, EPA, and DHA

Plant-based ALA Sources and serving sizes

The human body cannot efficiently produce ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA is commonly found in vegetable oils, walnuts, flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and grass-fed animals. EPA and DHA are commonly sourced from fish, seaweed, and algae. Interestingly, although fish are a great source of EPA and DHA, they too cannot synthesize these omega-3 fatty acids and obtain them through their diet of microalgae and plankton. The human liver converts about 15 % of the ALA we consume into EPA and DHA, which highlights the importance of consuming these essential fatty acids through our diet and supplementation.


Recommended Omega-3 Intake

Per the National Academy of Medicine, adequate intake of ALA is 1.1 g in healthy adult females and 1.6 g in healthy adult males. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 and the World Health Organization, the average consumption of 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA meets the dietary recommendation for consuming 8 ounces of seafood per week. The American Heart Association recommends a combination of the above by encouraging at least 2 servings of fish per week and plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids, but for a recommended range of 1.5 - 3 g of ALA or a combined daily dose of 0.5 - 1.8 g of EPA and DHA.


An adequate intake of ALA can easily be achieved with vegan and vegetarian diets as ALA is mostly found in plant foods. As DHA and EPA are more commonly found in fish, algae-based DHA and EPA are animal-free alternatives suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets.


Omega-3 Studies and Results on Cardiovascular Health

Several studies have found a correlation between the adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids and the reduced risk of coronary heart diseases. Most of the present data is centered around the consumption of EPA and DHA from seafood and not ALA which is highly found in plant-based foods.


Two recent studies, VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) and A Study of Cardiovascular Events in Diabetes (ASCEND), compared the effects of omega-3 fatty acids against placebo in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In both studies, participants were given a daily 1 g omega-3 formulation composed of 460 mg of EPA and 380 mg of DHA. VITAL included 25,871 patients aged 50 and older with no previous history of heart attacks, strokes, or cancer. The ASCEND trial included 15,480 adults aged 40 and older with diabetes but no history of CVD. Participants in both studies showed beneficial heart-healthy outcomes such as reduction in heart attack, coronary heart disease, and percutaneous coronary intervention.


The Reduction of Cardiovascular Events with Icosapent Ethyl-Intervention Trial (REDUCE-IT) studied the consumption of high dose EPA (4 g/day) in middle to older aged individuals who had elevated triglyceride levels, a history of cardiovascular (CV) events, or an increased risk of a CV event. The study concluded that the intake of high dose EPA in patients with elevated triglycerides on statin therapy led to a 25 % reduction in CV events when compared to placebo.

Omega-3 studies and results on eye health, infant neurodevelopment, Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive function

Conclusion

There is a variety of omega-3 fatty acids available over-the-counter (OTC) from both plant-based and animal-based sources. The recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids differs based on the needs and health conditions of the consumer. Clinical trials on the benefits associated with the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids support manufacturers’ health claims which indicate improved cardiovascular health. Conflicting data exist on the benefits associated with eye health, neurodevelopment, and cognitive function. Plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are great alternatives for vegans, vegetarians, and those with low to no fish consumption to meet adequate daily intake recommendations.


VeganMed Verified Animal-Free Omega-3 Options:

Nature's Way NaturaVege Omega-3 Plant-Based Supplement

500 mg of Omega-3s per serving



DEVA Vegan Vitamins Vegan/Algae Derived DHA

DHA (Algae) 200 mg per serving




Co-authored by: Saj Gowani


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Disclaimer: The product and/or medical information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product.

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