Decades of research support the idea that omega-3s, known as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), are vital to human health. For many people, intake of this important nutrient lags behind amounts recommended by both their governments and local health-focused organizations.
There are multiple options for LC-PUFA intake, including fish or supplements. How can you best plan your nutrition? In addition to factoring in whether you are vegetarian and your commitment to sustainability, you need to consider how your omega-3s are being absorbed and used by your body.
Structure and Function of Phospholipids and Polar Lipids
Consumers can find omega-3s fatty acids “packaged” as several different structures, including ethyl esters (associated with concentrated fish oil supplements), triglycerides (associated with fatty fish and refined fish oil supplements) and polar lipids, mainly phospholipids (associated with krill oil and some algal oils) and glycolipids (associated with some algal oils).
Almega PL EPA omega-3s have both a phospholipid and glycolipid structure, which was shown to mildly outperform krill oil supplements when tested for blood plasma concentration in humans and tissue uptake in-vivo.
The “head” of a polar lipid is hydrophilic, meaning it is attracted to water. It also has two water-repellent (hydrophobic) “tails.” This special structure allows the molecule to bind both to water and to fat, giving it unique and important properties in the body.
Phospholipids have vital roles in the human body. The phosphate section can be removed and the lipid portion used as fuel, plus they act as regulators for cell migration and production of enzymes, plus aid in other vital cellular functions such as nerve conduction.
Most importantly, phospholipids create a phospholipid “bilayer” that forms cell walls and membranes; two layers of phospholipids whose hydrophobic ends are attracted to one another partially behave as “gatekeepers” for the cells. (Small molecules like oxygen and carbon dioxide, the keys to mammalian breathing, can pass through successfully.) Phospholipids also carry nutrients away from the digestive system to the far reaches of the body.
The Bioavailability Factor Means a More Pleasant Supplement Experience
Although digestive enzymes and bile salts, such as from the liver and pancreas, assist in processing fatty acids in the body, less “help” is required for phospholipids. The unique hydrophilic and hydrophobic structure of polar lipids allows them to create micelles—the structure needed to transport fatty acids to the intestinal walls. Clinical studies have shown that polar lipids are better absorbed by the body than triglycerides or ethyl ester forms of omega-3s. This means that that phospholipids are considered to have high bioavailabilty – and are ready to be used by the body to support your health.
Because of the improved absorption, a smaller capsule can deliver the same amount of omega-3s into the body as a large fish oil (triglyceride or ethyl ester) capsule. These smaller capsules are much easier to swallow.
In addition, polar lipids (phospholipids and glycolipids) are noted to have fewer “fishy burps,” a side effect of some fish oil supplements, because they disperse in the stomach more quickly.
Highly bioavailable, pleasant to use, 100% vegetarian and sustainably grown Almega PL was developed with these small but crucial details in mind. For more information, see our whitepaper!