What if…algae is the answer?

Anxiously, I awaited the opportunity to be in a room of international wisdom. The agenda had been reviewed and re-reviewed.  As we approached the 2014 Alltech Symposium in Lexington, KY, I had been fully prepared {and excited} to attend sessions about drones, soil microbes and non-traditional farms. What fascinated me the most was their algae project.

Backing up to the Belching

Over the last decade, I’ve been told many times by family, by friends and even doctors, to try taking a Fish Oil supplement to improve Crohn’s & Ulcerative

Endoscopic image of ulcerative colitis affecti...

Endoscopic image of ulcerative colitis affecting the left side of the colon. The image shows confluent superficial ulceration and loss of mucosal architecture. Crohn’s disease may be similar in appearance, a fact that can make diagnosing UC a challenge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Colitis conditions. The idea being that Fish Oil which is high in Omega-3 DHA Fatty Acids, reduces inflammation and symptoms of irritable bowel diseases such as Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis, which are also anti-inflammatory diseases. During the last 19 years, I’ve tried. Honestly tried. I’ve dragged myself to the supplement aisle, purchased that big bottle filled with horse pills large enough to choke an elephant, taken it home, struggled to swallow a pill a day and then suffered through the belching and other nasty side affects. Ninety percent of the time, the bottle has sat in my medicine cupboard 3/4 full until it passed its expiration date and was then discarded. Never really being given a chance to work.

With that lingering taste in my mouth, my eyes and ears were all open as I listened to the ‘Algae Opportunity,’ session during the symposium. All of this time I believed that the fish was the key to Omega-3 nutrition. It amazed me to learn that fish do not make Omega-3 DHA but obtain it from their algae diet. So what if we could by pass the fishy belches by obtaining the nutrition through green slim. Crazy, huh?

By going back to the original source of DHA we are eliminating several of the problems with fish oil including overfishing to fill supplements orders (something I didn’t realize was happening), dislike of the after taste and the troubling concerns of contamination like mercury. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to tour Alltech’s Algae production facility located in Winchester, KY. It was huge, towering over eight stories high {hello, fear of heights}. What’s most remarkable is that they have perfected the production so that a few ounces of algae can grow into over a ton in 21 days.

Alltech Algae Plant - Photo credit: Alltech, Inc.

Alltech Algae Plant – Photo credit: Alltech, Inc.

So, what is Omega-3 DHA? 

You’ve heard about it in commercials or if you are a parent, you’ve likely received coupons for DHA enriched baby formula and DHA supplements. But how much do you really know about it? I’ll be honest, other than the ability to improve a baby’s brain growth, I knew little. DHA is one of three forms of Omega-3 fatty acids. The three forms of Omega-3’s are DHA, EPA and ALA and their benefits break down like this:

  • DHA: Improves cognitive health and visual development, reduces inflammation, improves cardiovascular function, improves heart rate, reduces blood pressure and triglyceride levels, improves general immunity and reduces preterm birth risk.
  • EPA: Reduces inflammation and improves cardiovascular function.
  • ALA: Provides an energy source and has a low conversion to EPA and DHA.

What’s wrong with our western diets?

That’s a loaded question, right?! The lack of DHA in our western diets isn’t the only problem we could be facing. During the Algae Opportunity session, I learned that another factor is the ratio of Omega-6 fatty acids (corn, palm oil, dried distillers grains) to Omega-3 fatty acids. On average, western diets have a 16:1 ratio and high ratios correlate with promotion of pathogenesis of many disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease.

How does the DHA make it into my food?

Farmers and ranchers who produce dairy, beef and poultry now have the opportunity to provide products to their livestock which are enriched with the DHA algae. The result includes enriched products you purchase such as milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs and meat. What’s more, its also helping to improve the animals’ health – an essential goal held by all farmers and ranchers.

How do I know I’m getting Omega-3 DHA?

After a quick survey of our Wally World, I found that most products which have been enriched with Omega-3’s, are not specifying which type. I am making the assumption that because the label Omega-3 is being used as a marketing tool, if the product contains Omega-3 it will say so. As far as being sure you get Omega-3 DHA – You can purchase DHA supplements over-the-counter in the vitamin supplements aisle and this would ensure you are receiving DHA.

So, is Omega-3 DHA the link between human health and wellness?

After attending symposium and listening to several experts such as Steve Bourne, Becky Timmons, Jules Taylor-Pickard, Patrick Wall, and Philip Wilkinson, I’m of the opinion that, yes, DHA can improve our health, wellness and lives. And, by supplementing my current medication regimen with DHA, I might decrease additional Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis symptoms. And, I don’t think it stops there. My dear friend Nicole from Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom has a great perspective of how Omega-3 DHA can help the ADHD epidemic. Its a must read!

Also, be sure to check out these other great 2014 Alltech 30th Symposium posts from some of my very favorite blogging friends:

 **Since our society is a sue-happy bunch I have to add….Before making any decisions about your health, consult your physician.**

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