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Echium Oil May Help Boost Omega-3 Blood Levels

Vegetarians and vegans often do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. A recent study suggests that taking a daily supplement of echium oil (a good source of stearidonic acid or SDA) may increase blood levels of both DHA and EPA omega-3s.

SDA is an intermediate omega-3 fatty acid that aids in the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) into EPA, which is the omega-3 fatty acid found in fish.

Participants in the study included 80 volunteers, 61 who were normal weight and 19 who were overweight and had metabolic syndrome. The normal weight volunteers were given either 1.9 grams of EPA in the form of fish oil or 2 grams of SDA (the equivalent of 17 grams of echium oil daily). The overweight participants were given only the echium supplements.

After eight weeks, the researchers found that the echium oil increased EPA levels by 168% and DPA blood levels by 68%. DHA levels, on the other hand, decreased by 5%. The EPA and DPA increases seen were 25% and 50% lower respectively than the increases seen with fish oil supplementation.

However, while the fish oil supplements were only associated with lower triglyceride levels, the echium oil group showed improvements in cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, oxidized LDL, and triglycerides. The echium oil group also saw decreases in HDL cholesterol.

Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on February 19, 2014, in The Journal of Nutrition.

Previous studies have linked echium oil with improved immunity and lower inflammation, as well as lower risk of a cardiac event. It is especially important for vegetarians and vegans, who don’t eat fish or eggs and therefore do not get enough essential EPA and DHA omega-3s through their diet.

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