Preformed DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), not EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) or ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), should be consumed to achieve an enhanced DHA status which is important for optimal health, according to a recent statement from the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL). ISSFAL is a respected international body of the world’s experts dealing with the health impact of dietary fats.
According to ISSFAL, omega-3s are a subset of polyunsaturated fatty acids; however, not all omega- 3s are created equal. DHA, EPA and ALA are the three major omega-3s, and each has distinct nutritional functions. ALA is found in sources like flaxseed and walnuts. EPA can be found in certain species of fatty fish and fish oils. Sources of DHA include algal oils, certain species of fatty fish, and fish oils.
DHA is critical for brain development and function and is an essential part of every brain cell. ISSFAL’s statement emphasizes that since DHA is vital for infant brain development, DHA from human breast milk and DHA-supplemented infant formula contributes critical amounts of DHA for infants. DHA levels in infants and adults who consume fish or algal sources of DHA are greater than in those people who do not consume such sources.
“This policy statement from ISSFAL outlines a compelling scientific basis for preformed dietary DHA as a central omega-3 fatty acid needed for human health,” said Dr. J. Thomas Brenna, a leading omega-3 expert, lead author of the ISSFAL policy statement, and professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. “It underscores that ALA and EPA cannot substitute for preformed DHA in the diet.”
According to the ISSFAL statement, neither ALA nor EPA supplementation of the diets of Westerners was able to significantly raise the bloodstream levels of DHA; however, consuming preformed DHA was quite effective at doing so. ALA, the precursor to EPA and DHA, is converted by the human body to EPA in small but significant amounts, but is converted to DHA at a rate of only one percent or less. EPA is converted to DHA by the human body much more efficiently, however, still not at rates high enough to elevate DHA blood levels in order to support optimal health. According to the ISSFAL statement, recent scientific thinking has concluded that conversion of ALA to DHA is essentially negligible and unable to meet the body’s needs for DHA.
“Martek applauds ISSFAL for advising consumers and healthcare professionals that there is no substitute for obtaining preformed DHA in the diet,” said Martek Medical Director, Edward B.Nelson, MD, FACP.
“Unfortunately, the average Western diet does not contain healthy levels of DHA, even as the body of research supporting the health benefits of DHA for brain, eye and heart health throughout the lifecycle continues to grow. Sources of DHA include algal oils, certain species of fatty fish and fish oils, DHA supplements, and foods fortified with DHA such as milks, juices, eggs, yogurts, cheeses, breads and other food and beverage products. This statement will go a long way toward ending the confusion about the best sources of DHA.”
DHA omega-3 is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that serves as a primary building block for the brain and the eyes and supports brain, eye and cardiovascular health throughout life. There is a large and growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that people of all ages benefit from an adequate supply of DHA omega-3 in their diets. Scientific reviews highlight the importance of DHA omega-3 in proper brain and eye development and function, as well as its importance in cardiovascular health. Clinical studies are underway to evaluate the role of DHA in decreasing the prevalence of certain neurological disorders. Leading experts around the world have noted that DHA is an important nutrient for health throughout the life cycle. Yet despite its importance, Americans have among the lowest dietary intakes of DHA omega-3 in the world.
Fish are often incorrectly thought to be the only source of DHA omega-3. However, life’sDHA offers a trusted, vegetarian form of DHA that contains no oceanic pollutants or toxins. Fish are sources of DHA because of the DHA-rich microalgae in their food chain; life’sDHA is derived directly from microalgae, a renewable, sustainable source of DHA that does not deplete ocean resources, and is produced entirely in the U.S. in an FDA-inspected facility. Today, life’sDHA is found in numerous foods, beverages and supplements for people of all ages. It is also the only source of DHA used in U.S. infant formula and is included in more than 99 percent of all formulas on the U.S. market, as well as in more than 200 brands of infant formula, nutritional supplements and functional foods sold in over 75 countries worldwide.
Martek Biosciences Corporation (NASDAQ: MATK) is a leader in the innovation and development of DHA omega-3 products that promote health and wellness through every stage of life. The company produces life’sDHA, a sustainable and vegetarian source of DHA omega-3, for use in foods, beverages, infant formula, and supplements, and life’sARA (arachidonic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid, for use in infant formula.
Sections of this release contain forward-looking statements. These statements are based upon numerous assumptions which Martek cannot control and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ. These statements should be understood in light of the risk factors set forth in the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including, but not limited to, the company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended October 31, 2008 and other filed reports on Form 10-K, Form 10-K/A, Form 10-Q and Form 8-K.