Doctor's Note

Because even distilled fish oil has been found to contain toxic industrial pollutants, the safest source is algae or yeast derived EPA/DHA (our bodies can retroconvert DHA into EPA and vice-versa). See some of my reasoning here. My recommendation is to ideally get 250 to 500 mg a day

  • Veguyan

    Dr. Dave Woynarowski apparently has his own brand of fish oil supplements, and he spoke on the Longevity Now Conference with David Wolfe. His source for his product is line-caught mackerel. He says that plant sourced ALA is not very bioactive and does not convert well to DHA, maybe 5% conversion. Says flax is good but most nuts and seeds and plant-based omega 3s are more omega 6 than 3 and you need more 3 than 6 to blunt the inflammatory aspects of the 6. Algae oil has way more DHA than EPA and we need both, actually need 3-1 EPA to DHA. Plant-based eaters need 125 g Omega 3 (per day, I guess) and they cannot get enough from Algae. Yeast technology that promises EPA is GMO and owned by Monsanto.

    Bottom line: We gotta get his product. Only his product will give us what we need.

    I’m using Vegan DHA by Minami Nutrition. I guess it’s useless, as it’s only 300 mg per day and I need 125 g, and it does not provide me with EPA. Too bad. I was getting such a nice placebo effect until I listened to Woynarowski.

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      I would certainly welcome any data Dr. Woynarowski has to offer, but what you ascribe to him doesn’t make sense to me. For example, the institute of Medicine has determined that the Adequate Intake for ALA is 1.1-1.6 g/day, 78 times smaller than what you recall him saying.

      Bottomline: Because even distilled fish oil has been found to contain toxic industrial pollutants, the safest source is algae or yeast derived EPA/DHA (our bodies can retroconvert DHA into EPA and vice-versa). See some of my reasoning here. My recommendation is to ideally get 250 to 500 mg a day.

      • odnettie@yahoo.com

        Good Afternoon Dr. G,

        Where would be the best place to purchase via online or walk-in the recommended Microalgae?

  • Veguyan

    Dr. Greger, thank you so very much for your availability and your response. It’s really great to be able to discuss these health questions with you. I’ve been taking the Vegan DHA for about a week, based upon this video you posted, and I really hope it is working for me. As a long term vegan of more than 35 years, who never really paid much attention to Omega 3s, I may very well be depleted and in need of this essential fat; I’ve certainly been battling depression all my life. And now between the magnesium and the DHA, whether by placebo or for real, I believe I am feeling better. I hope you know that I was being sarcastic when I wrote above that “we gotta get his product.”

    Thank you again.

  • GrantM77ni

    Dr. Greger,
    As you have reported, the effects of animal based omega-3 supplements can prove to be ironically, inflammatory. While you recommend utilizing algae as an alternative, is there concern over the neurotoxins (as you have discussed in other videos as present in spiralina and cholera), or are these only present in the blue-green algae?

    • Michael Greger M.D.

      All the algae-oil omega-3 supplements currently on the market are made from golden algae that don’t create the toxins that can be found in blue-green algae (such as spirulina, detailed here: http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/blue-green-algae. Thanks for the great question, GRantM77ni.

  • Toxins

    I have the same question as Grant and arent walnuts and flax seeds good sources of DHA?

    • SArmstrong

      There is another video you might watch that answers this question (although the video is cut off at the end). See nutritionfacts.org/videos/algae-based-dha-vs-flax-2/. Essentially what Dr. Greger says is that while we can make DHA from the shorter chain omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts and flax, probably we can’t make enough from that route for OPTIMAL health.

  • sarahharmony

    thanks so much for this. great info – so helpful and much appreciated.

  • BPCveg

    Suppose someone wants to avoid having to buy this algae oil and is willing to each an ideal plant based diet. Is it possible? How many greens do you have to eat? What kind of a plant based diet provides the necessary 3:1 ratio of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Or is your video trying to imply that one cannot be healthy on a fully plant based diet without having to consume a algae oil supplement? I’m sure many vegans have been wondering about this point.

    • Toxins

      Hello BPCveg,

      I actually have an answer. Although this video says we need algae oil, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with Dr. Greger. According to Dr. McDougall, “a condition of ‘essential fatty acid deficiency’ is essentially unknown in free-living populations….true essential fatty acid deficiency would result in: loss of hair, scaly dermatitis, capillary fragility, poor wound healing, increased susceptibility to infection, fatty liver, and growth retardation in infants and children.” Here is the full article http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2007nl/aug/oils.htm Although the algae oil may have the DHA, oil is still oil and not a whole plant food. I respect Dr. Greger’s statement of avoiding fish oil for its many contaminants ,as seen here http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=omega+3 and using algae oil as a substitute but is it really necessary to ingest any pure DHA in the form of an oil? After weighing it out, to me, it doesn’t seem necessary.

      • BPCveg

        Thanks Toxins.

      • Michael Greger M.D.

        I don’t recommend long chain omega 3′s for deficiency; I recommend them for optimal health. To prevent scurvy, the vitamin C deficiency disease, you only need like 30mg of C a day. But no one would recommend only 30. The reason the RDA is more than double that is the recognition that the levels to avoid deficiency don’t necessarily mean that’s the level for optimal health. That’s like saying you just need enough D to avoid rickets. Not true–D does all sorts of wonderful things in the body besides keeping your bones calcified. Same thing with the omega 3′s. Do nonfish-eaters have to take long-chain omega 3′s? We don’t know. But the balance of evidence suggests it would be beneficial in my opinion.

  • Veguyan

    Dr. Greger, Is there a problem with Hexane extraction in the vegetarian DHA?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1401026402 Gala Christen

    Not having a science background, I don’t know the difference between an algae or a yeast. We’ve been buying the algae-based DHA (Udo’s Choice DHA). I would like to be sure whether or not algae and yeast are the same. I don’t want to support Monsanto in any way. The Algae-based DHA isn’t GMO, is it? Algae and yeast-based DHA are 2 entirely different things, right?

    BTW, this pure form (not a blend of oil) DHA seems to be getting hard to find. Last time I checked my 1 local source, it was not on the shelf, and I just checked Amazon, I can’t find this product in the except in Canada. …Oh, no, now I just tried to buy it from the Canadian source and it’s not available there, either. Almost all that’s on the shelf is blends.

    http://www.florafmd.com/flora/home/USA/Products/61587.htm

  • Jeremy Ayers

    I really want to do this (I’m epileptic and on the modified atkins diet) but my nutritionist tells me that the body doesn’t process the omega fatty acids as well when they are derived directly from plant based sources as they do from fish. Would very much like  your input on this (I was vegan before and wld like to be again but my seizures increased on that diet)

    • Toxins

      Firstly, you should drop the atkins diet, it is extremely harmful. Here is Dr. Gregers free e-book on the topic
      http://www.atkinsexposed.org/

      As for omega 3, your body converts omega 3 from plants (ALA) to DHA and EPA. Fish has already preformed DHA so your body does not need to convert it.

      ALA is not converted effectively to DHA under the condition that one
      is consuming too many omega 6 fatty acids. Since most whole plant foods
      contain good ratios of omega 6 : omega 3, this is of no concern unless one is eating a lot of nuts other than walnuts, flax seed and chia seed. The
      National Academy of Sciences does not recognize EPA and DHA as
      essential. This means there is enough evidence for them to conclude that
      we can make enough of it without eating it in its preformed state.

      In addition…

      Do vegetarians have to eat fish for optimal cardiovascular protection?1–3
      Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89(suppl):1S–5S.

      Interest in the cardiovascular protective effects of n–3 (omega-3)
      fatty acids has continued to evolve during the past 35 y since the
      original research describing the low cardiovascular event rate in
      Greenland Inuit was published by Dyerberg et al. Numerous in vitro
      experiments have shown that n–3 fatty acids may confer this benefit by
      several mechanisms: they are antiinflammatory, antithrombotic, and
      antiarrhythmic. The n–3 fatty acids that have received the most
      attention are those that are derived from a fish source; namely the
      longer-chain n–3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5n–3) and
      docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n–3). More limited data are available on
      the cardiovascular effects of n–3 fatty acids derived from plants such
      as a-linolenic acid (ALA; 18:3n–3). Observational data suggest that
      diets rich in EPA, DHA, or ALA do reduce cardiovascular events,
      including myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death; however,
      randomized controlled trial data are somewhat less clear. Several recent
      meta-analyses have suggested that dietary supplementation with EPA and
      DHA does not provide additive cardiovascular protection beyond standard
      care, but the heterogeneity of included studies may reduce the validity
      of their conclusions. No data exist on the potential therapeutic benefit
      of EPA, DHA, or ALA supplementation on those individuals who already
      consume a vegetarian diet. Overall, there is insufficient evidence to
      recommend n–3 fatty acid supplementation for the purposes of
      cardiovascular protection; however, ongoing studies such as the Alpha
      Omega Trial may provide further information.

    • drew

      did your doctors point to a reason for your seizures getting worse on a vegan diet?

  • Elin

    If you´re, like me, not so keen on eating supplements but still don´t want to eat fish to get your omega 3 is there any algae that you can consume like a food and not a pill? Is algae free from polutions we can find in fish? One of the reasons I don´t want to eat fish is all “the extras”.

    I googled golden algae, since I have not heard of it before, and I found that it produces toxins just like cyanobacteria does. But, if I remember correctly, you don´t recommend consuming cyanobacteria because of it´s toxicity. What makes golden algae okey to consume but not the cyanobacteria?

    • http://www.facebook.com/gus.wehrman Gus Wehrman

      To give a for instance, I do know that the brand I happen to use, Ovega-3, sources theirs from “life’s DHA,” which they say is grown in certified stainless steel container outside of the ocean. This hopefully removes most of our concerns with the ocean derived varieties of this or that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kerry-Rebecca-Paterson/695797705 Kerry Rebecca Paterson

    I read an article a few years ago about promoting the growth of algae in the oceans to increase their CO2 absorption rates. Perhaps if we were farming more of this for the health benefits it would also have a noticeable positive effect on our planet.

  • cobalamin

    I tried DHA plant supplements and got nose bleeds and my brain felt like it was bleeding at a low intake level. Same thing when I use to eat fish.

    Everyone is different.

  • Shoshannah Sarah

    Why get algae in a supplement? Why not take the blue green algae as a food? That’s really the best.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gus.wehrman Gus Wehrman

    Hello, Dr. Greger! I was having a friendly argument with a company rep who was (big surprise) touting the superiority of THEIR product in our supplements department. He dismissed the reality of retroconversion of DHA and EPA and attempted to trivialize the importance of significant levels of DHA above (get this) 5mg. Could you pass along the best scientific citation links that sum up the current consensus on these points? I’d love to have them on hand for future reference. Thanks!

  • rick

    I have read that ALA converts well to DHA when on a whole foods plant based diet. But does not when on the SAD diet. I guess this would mean that DHA supplement is good for those who eat a SAD diet but not necessary for those on a WFPB diet. Do I have this wrong?

  • Cyclesalone

    I am making my own almond milk. I drink a large glass per day. Am I getting enough Omega 3. How do I compensate for getting enough Omega 6. I’m new to all of this so please excuse my ignorance

  • The English Coach

    Can I ask which one you personally use as it is difficult to weed through all the different ones on the market

  • Kar

    How do we know DHA plant based fatty acids,in supplements,are not oxidised? Fish and Krill oil supplements contain some type of antioxidant that ensures this.What about DHA supplements from algae?

  • Dg

    I ordered Deva vegan DHA EPA supplement and had to agree to prop 65 warning that the product contained cancer causing chemicals. Is this a cause for concern?

  • FitEyes

    I do recommend DHA in general.But I do not feel comfortable with the
    commercial vegetarian sources of DHA (even though I am a vegetarian). I
    believe Dr. Greger may have overlooked the genetic modification
    (mutagenesis) involved in the commercial production of DHA and EPA in
    microalgae, as well as the metabolic engineering, high processing and
    other unnatural production methods used. I provide more information at
    this link:
    http://fiteyes.tumblr.com/post/88875554665/vegetarian-dha-is-it-safe

  • Han

    I can already hear them say: “Yes but that would make a lot of people unemployed.”

  • Stephen Albers

    Dear Dr. Greger,

    I am very appreciative of your addressing the Omega 3/6 ratio question. I have been following this research for a number of years. There appears to be solid support for the value of keeping this ratio in an an optimal range because it correlates to a long list of chronic diseases.

    There is one aspect of this question that you do not appear to address. There is a simple serum test that determines this ratio for anyone – gas chromatography, I believe. The test is available from a number of labs. My reading generates ambivalence about the test. Some writings state that accuracy is far more detailed than needed for clinical use. But other innuendos claim there are accuracy problems with the test.

    Do you support the use of the Omega 3/6 serum test to determine personal status?

    Appreciatively,

    Stephen Albers