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Algal DHA omega-3 has heart-health benefits: new Harvard study

Good news for vegetarians and vegans: Algae-sourced DHA supplements may boost good (HDL) cholesterol and reduce triglycerides, two important heart-health benefits.

 

Getting an effective dose of long-chain omega-3s DHA and EPA is a challenge if you don’t eat fish or take fish oil. Good news for vegetarians and vegans then, last week in a report in the Journal of Nutrition, that algae-sourced DHA supplements may boost good (HDL) cholesterol and reduce triglycerides, important heart-health benefits.

The DHA supplements also raised LDL (bad) cholesterol slightly, but researchers from Harvard and the Cleveland Clinic noted that these were generally large particles, which are considered less harmful that small, dense particles. The net effect is likely to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.

Ovega-3, another algae-based omega-3 recently launched by Amerifit (Martek), is the first to offer both DHA and EPA, a breakthrough that may mean even more heart plusses.

One point that caught my eye: Supplementing with algal DHA (approximately 200 mg) costs about three times as much as fish oil supplementation, according to the report. (Perhaps they were considering Walmart or Costco prices; I don’t consider high-quality fish oil cheap!)

Ultimately, I wonder how critical heart-health benefits are for most vegans and vegetarians, who have much lower CVD risk factors. Having a family history of CVD no doubt plays some role, but investing in a healthy, nutrient-rich (and low or no) meat diet is a great step toward lower overall disease risk, even without supplements.

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