Vegan sources of oils (Algae story)
A vegan is someone for either health, religious or ethical reasons doesn’t consume animal products. This includes dairy, eggs or of course, any flesh foods (meats, chicken or fish). While this can be a healthy way to eat, it can leave the vegan open to nutritional insufficiencies such as vitamin B12, taurine, and some essential fatty acids. And it is these essential fatty acids that a lot of vegans chase in order to ensure they get their essential fatty acids. And the oils vegans often chase are EPA and DHA.
Fish Oils – EPA and DHA
Many individuals assume that taking fish oils (EPA and DHA) gets them their essential fatty acids. However; EPA and DHA are NOT essential fatty acids. This is because they can be made by humans if they consume the actual omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids (Alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid). This fact doesn’t stop individuals chasing the elusive ‘EPA and DHA’. In fact, fish, krill and now algae oils are one of the widely consumed supplements worldwide. One-way vegans source their EPA and DHA is through supplementing with algae, which is naturally rich in EPA and DHA.
So, what is up with algae?
Firstly, there is nothing wrong with it per se. Unfortunately, and to just contradict myself, there is something wrong with the way it is sourced. The problem lies in the fact that it is like a sponge for toxins and often, algae forms are grown in areas where there is heavy polluting industry, such as next to an airport. The jet engines spew tonnes of burnt and unburnt hydrocarbons, especially during take-off. This then falls to the ground and into the waterways, which then is taken up by the algae. Also, then the planes land, have you noticed the skid marks on the runway? Yes, that is the rubber that is burnt off the tires as they have to accelerate from 0-140 knots (200km/h+) when the plane touches down.
This, of course, causes huge friction on the tires and the rubber dust if of course rinsed off the runway during the next rain, which pours into the waterways. The result is more pollutant that is taken up by the algae, which is then taken up by the supplement consumer.
What is the answer for vegans?
While vegans continue to chase EPA and DHA to obtain these ‘magical fish oils’ they have been told they are missing out on, they resort to potentially polluted sources. The honest answer is that these vegans don’t need to chase fish oils. Remember, tribes that live thousands of kilometers from the sea survive quite well without any fish. The key for vegans is to make their own ‘fish oil’ (EPA and DHA). And the good news is that they can, provided they are given 2 things: 1. The raw materials (the essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to make them) and 2. Micronutrients to convert the essential fatty acids through to EPA and DHA. This is by far a better way to supplement with essential fats.
Thus, when someone asks you, as a vegan or non-vegan for that matter, if you take fish oils, you can look them in the eye and say “nah, I am making my own. Thanks for asking”.