Unraveling the Truth: Do Humans Actually Require Pre-Formed EPA and DHA?
Let's Look at the Research.
What is an Essential Fatty Acid, (EFA)?
Essential fatty acids are fats that are essential for health and survival.
We call them essential fats because our body cannot make them, meaning we must get them from our diet.
There are only two essential fatty acids in humans and herbivores: Omega 3 ALA and Omega 6 LA. In carnivores, the EFAs are different than the one herbivore and humans require.
There is only one essential Omega 3 fatty acid in humans and herbivores, and that is ALA. ALA is only made by plants, animals cannot make ALA.
EPA and DHA are not essential for humans and all other herbivores, because we can make our own from ALA.
Here is the Omega 3 conversion chart, which shows the unidirectional conversion: ALA>SDA>ETA>EPA>DPA>DHA in that order.
EPA is the Essential Omega 3 for fish and carnivores because they do not produce the enzymes to convert ALA, SDA, or ETA to EPA. Carnivores and fish start at the fourth Omega 3, which is EPA, and then convert that to DPA, then DHA. This is how we can tell that a body is designed to eat animals or plants, by which conversion process they have.
For fish and carnivores, the essential for meat-eating animals the Omega 3 requirement starts at EPA, and for plant-eating animals Omega 3 requirement starts at ALA. ALA is all humans need to provide all 6 forms of Omega 3 that our body requires for health and survival.
The Omega 3 conversion is a "unidirectional conversion" process, meaning the conversion only goes in one direction - from ALA down to DHA. DHA cannot back-convert or retro-convert to EPA or ALA or any of the other Omega three forms.
ALA, however, can provide all 6 forms of Omega 3 our body uses.
So this begs the question, why would you want to take DHA, which cannot convert into any other form of Omega 3, when you can consume ALA, which provides all six forms of Omega 3?
Are all six forms of Omega 3 necessary?
The human body has an "energy conservation principle," which means the body will not create work or use up energy and resources unnecessarily. This "conservation of energy" helps us keep as much energy for functioning and survival.
We know this is true because fish and carnivores do not produce the enzymes to convert ALA into EPA and DHA. That is to conserve energy. Because it costs energy and resources to make the enzymes.
This is how we know that all herbivores, including humans, require ALA SDA, ETA, EPA, DPA, and DHA.
What do we use ALA/SDA/ETA for?
And this is where it gets interesting.
Study: “Determinants of fluid intelligence in healthy aging: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid status and frontoparietal cortex structure”
This study showed that those consuming the highest amounts of ALA, SDA, and ETA had higher fluid intelligence and greater gray brain matter preservation.
I don't know about you, but I think having higher intelligence and more of my brain remaining at the end of my life is pretty important!
So why are so many doctors, teachers, and nutritionists stating that we need to get Pre-formed EPA and DHA from animal foods like fish or algae supplementation?
First, animals, including fish do not make EPA or DHA - they consume it.
Only plants make essential fatty acids. Animals do not and cannot make them. So the Essential Fats that fish have come from the algae directly or indirectly, by a fish eating another fish that ate algae.
Do Vegans convert enough ALA to DHA?
This study showed a much higher conversion rate of ALA to DHA and vegans.
“…results suggested that the best conversion rates are by individuals that don't consume (preformed) DHA…”
So why was this?
Preformed EPA and DHA
"Preformed" EPA and DHA, are formed outside of the body instead of being made body our own body. When you consume a preformed version of EPA or DHA, the body will not need to make any of its own, because it is getting sufficient supply from the outside of the body.
The body regulates the amounts of each Omega 3 form so that it doesn't have too high amounts of EPA or DHA, which can have negative effects in the body, too.
Omega 3 Ratios are important
Study: “The ratio of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as a modulator for the cardio-metabolic effects of omega-3 supplements: a meta-regression of randomized clinical trials”
This is why a precursor is the safest form as it can be stored for up to a year and only converted in the exact amounts needed, when and where it is needed, without causing imbalances that could cause undesired effects. To prevent this from happening. We have an endogenous (inside of our body) regulatory system. Our body uses epigenetics to control our genes' production of conversion enzymes. Epigenetics will turn on or off the production of enzymes that do the conversion so that you don't convert more than your body needs.
Remember, DHA cannot retroconvert back to any other forms. So if you consume preformed DHA, that's all you get - just DHA. So the body wouldn't want to convert ALA downstream to any other forms unless there is a need for them.
Study: Dietary intake and status of n–3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in a population of fish-eating and non-fish-eating meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans and the precursor-product ratio of α-linolenic acid to long-chain n–3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: results from the EPIC-Norfolk cohort
“…the precursor-product ration from plant-derived ALA to circulating long chain n-3 PUFAs was significantly greater in non-fish eaters than in those who ate fish,” wrote the researchers.”
“…results suggested that the best conversion rates are by individuals that don't consume (preformed) DHA…”
This study showed that if no external preformed DHA is being ingested, the body will produce more enzymes that convert ALA down the chain to EPA and DHA as needed.
The researchers said those with the highest conversion rates were those that did not consume EPA or DHA at all.
Then researchers looked at the blood to see if the conversion from ALA to DHA was sufficient to supply the brain.
When they measured the conversion of ALA in the bloodstream, it readily and efficiently converted to EPA in more than enough for the body's needs.
But they did not see the conversion of ALA to DHA - in the bloodstream.
This led researchers to the assumption that the human body itself does not convert ALA efficiently or sufficiently enough to supply the DHA DHA needs of the brain and the human body.
It wasn't until advanced testing methods came around that showed us the top blood studies were highly inaccurate.
The blood first was measured just as blood plasma.
Well, that includes the whole blood. So is the conversion happening in the whole blood? Well, no, the body would naturally convert ALA down to DHA if there's no need for it.
So when they traced where the ALA was going, they found it was being stored in fat tissues - fat in the liver, fat in the brain, and fat in the body.
This makes a lot of sense. Then when your body needs it, it can convert it on an as-needed basis to the exact form that it needs out of the six different forms of omega threes.
If it needs ALA it'll keep it has it available. If it needs EPA, it will convert it and convert it further to DHA if the body needs that. The body takes much of the ALA and converts it down to DHA but stores it or uses it for energy immediately, so it clears from the bloodstream rapidly.
They've shown that we are so efficient at storing DHA that the body can store up to 50,000 milligrams of DHA in our body fat!
The human brain requires daily, about 2.6mg to 3.8mg of DHA per day to function, this means we have many year's worth of stored DHA and our body fat at any given time.
So why does the body store so much DHA?
Well, in the wild our body became very efficient at storing extra DHA because it was so important to the brain that it made sure it stored plenty of it. In case there were times when we weren't getting enough food. We weren't getting enough initial ala to supply the backup. So our body cleverly stores a whole lot of DHA.
Now let's go back to the blood studies. So they said well, maybe plasma is not the way to measure it because the conversion is not happening there. But what about red blood cells? This is a tissue that converts if the conversion rate was happening in tissues, then the conversion rate should be happening. In whole red blood cells as well.
When they tested it, the more ala Wan consumed the lower the amount of DHA was appeared in the red blood cells.
Now why is that?
Because ALA has benefits above and beyond DHA ALA and EPA both have health benefits that DHA does not provide.
Study4: Plant-based omega-3s may boost heart health, reduce risk of heart disease
Researchers found that consuming ALA that is found in plant-based foods like walnuts and flaxseeds was associated with a 10% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 20 percent reduced risk of fatal coronary heart disease.
"When people with low levels of omega-3s in their diet ate ALA, they saw a benefit in terms of cardiovascular health," Fleming said. "But when people with high levels of omega-3s from other sources ate more ALA, they also saw a benefit.”
Now if you're a red blood cell, and you have the option of storing ALA which can convert to all six forms, or DHA, which can't convert to any other form which would you prefer? If one ALA is better and EPA is better? Why would you hold on to DHA? The body doesn't.
It actually can remove the DHA and replace it with superior ALA and EPA because they have more potential to be all six forms or provide benefits that DHA cannot provide.
This makes perfect sense. But it doesn't but it made the researchers believe that we were not converting ala to DHA.
This scared people into thinking that a plant-based diet rich and ALA would not provide the DHA that our brains need.
A more recent study using the carbon-isotope tracing method showed that in fact, ALA was converting very rapidly and thoroughly into DHA, even in the bloodstream, but it was being immediately metabolized, broken down, and used for energy because of the amount of storage of DHA.
So basically the body was saying, I'll break it all the way down to DHA, but if you don't need it, if you've got so much stored and you don't need the DHA, then I'm just gonna burn it off as energy because fat can produce energy and DHA is a readily usable supply of energy.
So what was happening is that the body was indeed converting ala to DHA, but because we store so much it was simply burning it up as energy. It was however storing ALA and EPA because those can be used to be converted to Ala s, SDA, eta all the rest of them and they proved to have benefits above and beyond the DHA.
So this shows that we've had this fear that we aren't getting enough DHA from plants that provide mostly ala all the essential fatty acids that we need for proper functioning.
Now we know this is simply not true. And the plants have the ALA version, the very top of the ladder that can provide all of the rest of the six forms that we need and supply benefits that you cannot get from downstream DHA that cannot convert back into any of the other forms.
In this scenario with this research. We see that DHA is probably the least important of all of the omegas needed because it is at the very bottom of the conversion basis chart and our body ends up storing so much of it, that it can be pulled from storage and refilled and storage on an as needed over time. We don't need to be getting it regularly.
This is a brilliant endogenous regulatory system that keeps just the right amounts of conversion happening because different genders male and female require different levels of different omegas. The brain requires ala SDA, eta, EPA, and DHA.
So, you see the different tissues at different ages and different genders and with different health challenges. Our body requires different levels of each of the different Omega three versions. That is why humans, and all herbivores, have all six forms in a conversion rate that is regulated by the changes done by the epigenetic production of enzymes.
Our binding turns on and off these enzymes, making sure we get just enough of each one of the six to meet our own body's needs. Getting too much of one or the other. By forcing them in through preformed versions, like what's in animal products, fish oil, and algae supplements can send the body out of balance. Let the body do its regulation. Let it convert where and when it needs to.
A few percent of people have a genetic flaw. That means they have up to 30% Less conversion from ALA to SDA in the first step of epigenetic enzyme production.
Even though it's just a few percent of the population that has this issue when you take it flower since it already has ALA and SDA ready the SDA is the second step or what's called the rate-limiting step that prevents this from happening in those people. So even those people who genetically have an issue converting ala to SDA as the first step, the rate-limiting step won't have as much of an issue because Ahiflower is the richest source of SDA of any non-GMO plant on the planet.
So Ahiflower not only supplies all the Omega 3 essential fatty acid (ALA), and also supplies the Omega 6 essential fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA) too! A complete Omega 3, 6, 9 in an ideal 3.4-1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6.
ALA to DHA Conversion is more than sufficient for Humans:
Study: Is docosahexaenoic acid synthesis from a-linolenic acid sufficient to supply the adult brain?
In conclusion, the research reveals a fascinating truth about essential fatty acids and their significance for human health. While many have touted the necessity of pre-formed EPA and DHA, the evidence suggests otherwise. Humans require only two essential fatty acids, ALA and LA, which can be obtained from plant-based sources. The conversion process is a remarkable feat, with ALA serving as the precursor for all five other forms of omega-3 fatty acids. The body does not require downstream preformed Omega 3 DHA, just like it doesn’t require downstream Omega 6 Arachidonic Acid. It is best for our body to convert to the proper form need at the time of need.
Contrary to popular belief, the body efficiently converts ALA to EPA and DHA as needed, ensuring a sufficient supply for optimal brain function and overall health. Studies indicate that individuals consuming higher amounts of ALA, SDA, and ETA exhibit higher fluid intelligence and greater preservation of gray brain matter. Furthermore, plant-based Omega-3 ALA has been associated in studies with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
While pre-formed EPA and DHA may be derived from animal sources, they are not essential for humans. The body's remarkable regulatory system ensures that it produces the required amounts of each omega-3 form without the need for external supplementation. By focusing on plant-based sources rich in ALA, such as Ahiflower, individuals can meet their omega-3 needs while reaping additional health benefits provided by ALA and other forms of omega-3.
It's time to debunk the myth that humans require pre-formed EPA and DHA. Embrace the power of plant-based essential fatty acids and let your body's natural conversion process work its magic. Unlock the potential of ALA and witness the transformative effects on your health and well-being. Say goodbye to misconceptions and embrace the truth about essential fatty acids – a journey toward optimal health awaits.