Optimising omega-3 absorption

If we want to reap the full benefits of the omega-3s we take, we must seek to optimise our digestion.

While we advocate as a general rule that ‘you are what you eat’, the fact is that you are what you ‘digest, absorb and metabolise‘. If you’re investing in your health by supplementing with premium omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll want to ensure you are absorbing all the potential goodness they offer! Poor absorption will not only be a waste of money but will prevent you feeling the full benefits of your chosen supplement.

In this section we bring you practical advice straight from our nutritionists – follow these tips and you’re on your way to achieving an optimal omega-3 index (the amount of EPA + DHA omega-3 in your red blood cells) and optimising your long-term health. For those who are interested in exactly how fat absorption works and, more specifically, how different forms of omega-3 are digested, you can read about omega-3 forms here. We feel everyone would be better off understanding the role of dietary co-factors – nutrients which support and enhance complex fatty acid metabolism. Ideally you’ll incorporate more of these into your diet – benefiting not just from maximising your omega-3 absorption but increasing your intake of valuable phytonutrients and antioxidants too.

Tips from our nutritionists

Dr Nina Bailey

Head of Clinical Nutrition

Nina Bailey AX0A1440“The concept of taking a ‘one-a-day’ (albeit a rather large and difficult to swallow capsule in most cases) may seem attractive and convenient, but if you are swamping your body with omega-3 in one large dose, you may not be getting the best from your product. Digestion is improved when omega-3 supplements are taken with food, but to get the ultimate health benefits from EPA and DHA when using them therapeutically, it is best to split the dosage up and take capsules with several meals instead of ingesting them all at once. By split dosing, we improve the bioavailability and provide the body with manageable amounts of omega-3 throughout the day, ensuring a constant supply for optimal anti-inflammatory outcomes.

Sophie Tully

Nutrition Education Manager

Sophie Tully AX0A1445“Omega-3 fats elicit their health benefits following release from our cell membranes, where they are incorporated after ingestion through the diet and supplements. Studies show that it takes at least three months for the EPA and DHA in our cells to reach optimum levels (known as the omega-3 index) in response to supplementation. At this point the amount of omega-3 being incorporated into the cells is still rising, even when taking doses of more than 2g per day. Thus if you are taking your Igennus supplements for a specific health reason it is important to take the recommended dose, for at least three months.”

Kyla Williams

Nutrition Technical Advisor

Kyla Williams AX0A1436“To optimise the absorption of omega-3, give your digestion a helping hand by taking supplements with food. If they repeat on you, take supplements just before a meal containing fat. The bile and enzymes produced when you eat a meal will help to breakdown the fat, and consuming a meal already containing fat will support the digestion process by helping to transport the omega 3 fatty acids to the parts of the body required, such as the brain.”

Dietary co-factors

The effective absorption and utilisation of omega fats by the human body is dependent on the presence of certain enzymes. These enzymes act as catalysts in the omega-3 & -6 conversions, as well as the conversion into anti-inflammatory eicosanoids – vital hormones including prostaglandins and leukotrienes.

Dark green leafy vegetables in colander

Green vegetables are a wonderfully rich source of phytonutrients and antioxidants – load up your plate!

To ensure that these enzymes and enzyme-mediated conversions function properly, certain vitamins and minerals need to be present in the body, known as ‘co-factors’. Co-factors supply the body with the nutrients to enhance the effectiveness of omega fatty acids in the brain and body, providing important anti-inflammatory, immune- and blood-regulating substances, which increase our wellbeing. The most important co-factors for omega-3 metabolism are:

  • vitamins: B6, B12, biotin, niacin, folic acid
  • minerals: zinc, magnesium and selenium.

In order to enable your body to get the most from your omega health supplement, or indeed any omega fatty acids from your diet, it is important to eat foods rich in these co-factors. Good sources are raw fruit and vegetables, nuts (not roasted!) and grassfed meat. Try to eat as many different types of vegetables as possible on a daily basis, ensuring that you include darker green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli or cavolo nero, which also supply you with beneficial phytonutrients such as chlorophyll.