After B12, this is one of the most asked questions. The problem is that DHA and EPA are not found in any plant-based food. In fact, the only thing where these two acids are found are fish, and fish oil and some of it is found in seaweed. By stating that we see that not only vegans have problems with DHA and EPA, but meat eaters are having low amounts of it too. In fact, everyone who does not eat fish should have DHA and EPA deficiency. Now if you think logically, this statement is very weird. Because half the world don’t eat fish and half the world should be deficient and have problems? But before we continue let’s take a look at benefits of DHA and EPA fatty acids.
DHA and EPA Benefits
Many studies show that Omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are good against inflammatory. As well one of the studies indicates that 60 to 80 years old people who were eating plenty of fish have better chances not to get macular degeneration as people who did not eat fish at all.
DHA is most prevailing acid in our brains. Because of that, our brains function better when there is significant supply. Because of that, one of the studies shows that people who eat fish have less chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who did not eat fish. In the Norway, they tested 2000 individuals in age between 70 to 74. Those that eat fish did better on a cognitive test than those people that did not eat fish.
In Finland, one study shows that eating fish can prevent brain damage in people older than 65 years for 25%.
Prostate cancer can also be prevented by eating fish and consuming high amounts of fish.
ALA Conversion Enough for DHA and EPA in Vegans
EPIC study shows that difference between non-fish eaters and fish eaters were smaller when tested on DHA and EPA. There were 14 422 men and women aged between 39 and 78 years in this study. The test proved that even if nonfish eaters total consumption of Omega 3 fatty acid were 57 – 80% of the fish eaters, the result in the body was considerably smaller. The conclusion is made that people who don’t consume DHA and EPA directly have higher metabolism for converting ALA to DHA and EPA. Nonfish eaters have a higher conversion ratio of ALA. Another interesting finding is that woman also have a higher conversion of ALA to DHA and EPA than men.
Some well-known doctors all over the world agree that DHA and EPA levels need to be reconsidered. Who and on what is making this levels? If we know that different people can do well on different levels, then how can you use same levels on all individuals. It is proven that diet and lifestyle can have a tremendous impact on the levels that are considered normal and healthy. Some doctors say that even a patients with low levels of DHA and EPA did not show any signs of illness or any kind of problems. Many doctors are against supplementing DHA and EPA just because there are better ways of getting it. Healthier ways, like cutting down on Omega 6 fatty acids.
It is proven that there needs to be a smaller ratio between Omega 6 and Omega 3 intake and modern diet is nowadays packed with Omega 6. All that processed food contains massive amounts of Omega 6. If you cut down on Omega 6, then your conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA will increase because Omega 6 reduces conversion by a lot.
No study will show that vegans are having problems because of not eating fish and there is no prove that vegans will have all the disease mentioned above if you don’t eat fish.
But with one thing we need to agree, there are bad vegan diets and good vegan diets. Bad vegan diet is high in Omega 6 (processed food, cookies, fast food) and good vegan diet raw food and cooked on appropriate low Omega 6 oils, like olive oil which is low in Omega 6.
The whole picture about Omega 3 fatty acids is not simple to understand. Yes, the easiest way is to take supplements, but even supplements will not guarantee you to have “normal” levels of DHA and EPA. Scientists and Doctors disagree on many fields, some of them suggest supplements and others are against it. The problem with supplements are that there is not enough proves that low levels of DHA and EPA intake will cause any harm to the human body. If you don’t take DHA and EPA, there is a high chance your body will convert ALA and raise your levels of DHA and EPA to the needs. Maybe that is the reason for low conversion ratio. Our body just don’t need more DHA and EPA. If you think logically if our body have powers to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, why is then not converting it in higher amounts and the simple answer would be, that it don’t need the higher amounts of DHA and EPA.
To stay on the safe side, if you have concerns about your DHA and EPA levels, do the tests, but keep in mind that maybe your body is doing good on low levels. In that case, I am suggesting to check in with your doctor, let him examine you, and if he says you are healthy, then I don’t see where is the problem.