FAQs


The evidence that raised safety concerns regarding evening primrose oil in individuals prone to epileptic seizures originated from two papers published in the early 1980s. Since their publication, the safety of evening primrose oil has been re-evaluated and it is now accepted that not only is evening primrose oil safe, but that prostaglandins produced from the GLA component found within the oil may protect against or reduce the severity of seizures in epileptic individuals.


Echium seed oil is a remarkable and potent plant seed oil with a rare profile of omega-3-6-9 fatty acids that offer superior health benefits for vegetarians and vegans and people who don’t eat oily fish (above and beyond those associated with commonly available seed oils such as flaxseed).

Derived from the Echium plantagineum plant (also known as Viper’s Bugloss), the echium seed oil in Echiomega® is still a relatively unknown source of beneficial omega fats. Echium is the only plant oil that raises omega-3 EPA levels effectively – so it’s a superior option for vegetarians & vegans who currently rely on dosing with huge volumes of flaxseed oil, which doesn’t generate meaningful amounts of EPA in the body. Echium seed oil confers significant anti-inflammatory properties and many subsequent health benefits through raising EPA levels more efficiently than any other seed oil.


Whilst Echiomega provides superior support for vegetarians and vegans compare to flaxseed oil the short chain omega-3 fats must still be converted to EPA and DHA for the full health benefits to be achieved. About 25-30% of the SDA within echiomega will end up as EPA in the body so whilst it is certainly a great option for those wishing to avoid fish oils we would strongly recommend those requiring intensive support take a high dose (up to 10 capsules per day) or use EPA whilst they get their health back on track.


Parent fatty acids refer to the essential fatty acids, omega-3 (ALA) and omega-6 (LA) from which the physiologically active long-chain fats are made.

Whilst supplement forms of the parent fats are often touted for health benefits when it is the long-chain fats that are physiologically ‘active’. Our diets contain excessive LA, the omega-6 parent fat relative to ALA, which leads to the production of highly inflammatory end products. Increasing ALA would seem to be the answer, to balance our intake of LA but only 6-8% (of ALA) is converted to long-chain omega-3 EPA and even less to DHA. Providing pre-formed EPA and DHA (fish consumption/fish oil) is the simplest and most effective way of supporting our omega-3 requirements (unless you are veggie of course).

Consuming preformed omega-3 seems the most sensible way to address long chain omega-3 deficiencies and support optimal health. It may be wise to reduce your intake of LA by avoiding common vegetable oils and choosing to consume meat and dairy from animals that have been naturally grass fed rather grain fed.


Depending on EPA or DHA needs, echium seed and algae oils both offer significant but different benefits. Algae oil is rich in DHA whilst Echium seed oil promotes EPA accumulation. Since EPA and DHA compete in the body, it is important to determine your desired benefits and life stage needs before deciding the suitable plant-based omega-3 option for you. If you have a chronic health condition, particularly one that is inflammatory based Echium seed oil might be more beneficial for you. Those looking to support optimal health or DHA needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding may wish to rely more heavily on Algae. It is perfectly safe to take algae oil with Echium seed so if you would like to ensure you are consuming some preformed long chain omega-3 whilst optimising your EPA levels then you may wish to take the two together.


As we focus our supplements on optimising EPA levels in the body we do not currently offer algae oils. As technologies improve and a high EPA algae becomes available we may add one to our range.


Heavy marketing of krill oil has focused on the superior bioavailability of the phospholipid form of omega-3 over that of triglyceride omega-3 from fish oil. This appealing concept has been given disproportionate importance while the justifiably important factor of dose has been virtually ignored. Consumers have been misled into believing that taking low doses of EPA and DHA omega-3 from krill oil will provide health benefits comparable to those associated with larger doses of EPA and DHA from fish oil.

The evidence supporting the need for high doses of omega-3 fatty acids, and in particular EPA, in the treatment of a variety of health conditions clearly demonstrates that manufacturer-recommended doses of krill oil capsules (approximately 300 mg) do not provide sufficient levels of EPA and DHA to increase blood plasma levels of omega-3s and have no place in therapeutic, clinical nutrition.

To achieve the same level of EPA and DHA in red blood cell membranes (an important health biomarker called the omega-3 index) you need approximately 40% more krill oil than fish oil [2]. Since krill oil is already about 3x the price of standard fish oil for the same volume, it is considerably more expensive to achieve higher volumes of krill oil just to achieve the same omega-3 blood profile as produced by fish oil.

Read more about why krill oil is not a viable alternative to fish oil here>


There are a number of ways you can get in touch if you still have questions. Call us on 0845 13000424, email us at asktheexperts@igennus.com, use our new live chat option.

Please be aware these services are available in order for us to be able to answer product specific questions and the amount of time a nutritionist can spend with you will be limited. If you need more detailed support we would recommend seeking the help of a qualified health practitioner.


Our nutritionist team offer private consultations and can be approached directly for more information and to book an appointment. Consultations can be conducted in person or via skype depending on your location and who you would like to see. We also have a list of practitioners on our website who are available for a range of different therapies and can be found via our find a practitioner tool here>.

For those wishing to take the Opti-O-3 a 20 minute consultation is included in the price.


Anchovies, naturally rich in EPA, are small, short living fish low in the ‘food-chain’ and therefore our raw oils are naturally low in contaminants such as methyl mercury, PCBs and dioxins.


We choose wild Peruvian anchovies sourced from the clean waters of the Pacific Ocean.


Unlike many other fish species, anchovies are considered sustainable because the stock regenerates rapidly due to the ability of these fish to reproduce so profusely. In addition, there is a ‘minimum size’ rule that encourages the discarding/returning to the water of undersized and immature anchovies.


Our product Echiomega has a vegan seaweed capsule and our soft gel children’s chewable product Vegepa Chewable and our product VESIsorb Ubiquinol have bovine capsules. All other capsules are fish gelatine and all our capsules come with both Halal and Kosher certification.


Whilst fishy reflux can be an unpleasant side effect experienced from fish oil consumption, it is not generally common. We advise taking our capsules with food to reduce the risk of reflux and the recent addition of lemon oil to some of our products.


Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which is one of the reasons they can be beneficial to heart health and inflammatory issues. Whilst ‘excess’ amounts of omega-3 have the potential to disrupt immune function, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) state that EPA and DHA combined at doses up to 5 g/day do not raise safety concerns for adults. It is extremely uncommon to consume such high doses on a regular basis and it is unlikely that taking the more general dose of 1-2g daily would pose any negative long-term effects. You can find out information on how to check your omega-3 status by reading here: Opti-O-3 fatty acid biomarker test.


Anchovies are low in the food-chain and unlike larger, longer-living fish are therefore naturally low in contaminates. The quality of our raw oils is therefore exceptional with levels of methyl mercury, PCBs and dioxins well below the permitted levels even before the EPA/DHA is extracted and concentrated. Our suppliers test the raw oil and final product for contaminants and our customers are assured of the highest quality product, offering unprecedented purity and safety for long-term health benefits.


Purines are found in the flesh of the fish but not in highly purified, molecularly distilled fish oil, so it should not affect your gout.  Taking 1000mg of purified EPA will actually be beneficial for managing the inflammation associated with gout.


YES absolutely and actually we strongly recommend it. Fish oils and specifically EPA do indeed help make the blood less sticky and ‘thinner’ which for most people is highly beneficial. Early research indicated that this could increase bleeding risk in those taking Warfarin or high dose aspirin but numerous rigorous analyses have since proven fish oil, even at does as high as 5g per day, do not pose risk to anticoagulant users. In fact, low dose aspirin and EPA appear to work in parallel to shift the fatty acid balance toward a less inflammatory milieu as well as by interactions that directly lead to the production of a variety of potent health beneficial end products. Individuals taking pharmaceutical blood-thinning agents such as Warfarin or Heparin who undergo regular coagulation tests may wish to inform their GP that they are taking highly concentrated EPA fish oils and discuss reducing your dosage as coagulation markers improve.


By analysing fatty acids from red blood cells we get information on someone’s long term dietary omega-3 intake whereas omega-3 in plasma will give information on very recent intake. The
convenience of the blood spot is that it doesn’t require a phlebotomist but it does mean that the sample will contain both red blood cells and plasma (whole blood would be spun and the plasma removed).  Whist there is a strong correlation between fatty acid levels between whole blood (blood spot) and red blood cells we ask that people do not consume fish/fish oils for 48 hours before sampling as this could cause a fatty acid spike in the plasma and therefore reduce the accuracy of the results.  The best way to do the test is to avoid omega-3 over a weekend and then take the sample first thing Monday morning before breakfast.  This will ensure that any omega-3 in the plasma will effectively be ‘washed out’ whilst those in the red blood cells will remain giving us an accurate picture of a person’s omega-3 status.


We pretreat our blood spot cards with Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) which prevents PUFA degradation for up to 8 weeks at ambient temperature which means PUFA are stable during postal transit from the client to the lab. Because the blood spot offers convenience when sampling (no phlebotomist required) it does mean that both plasma and red blood cells will be present in the sample. As we are only interested in long-term dietary exposure to fatty acids (those derived from RBC and not plasma) we clearly state in the instructions that the client should not eat fish or take fish oils for at least 24 hours prior to taking the sample to avoid ‘spikes’ in plasma omega-3 fatty acids. It is best that clients avoid high omega-3 intake over a weekend and then take the blood sample first thing on a Monday before breakfast.

The correlation between blood spot derived fatty acids and fatty acids isolated from whole blood is extremely high and therefore our results are reliable and reflect the clients consumption of omega-3.


Whilst none of our products are formulated specifically for animals our ingredients are, where possible, 100% natural and highly bioavailable and so should pose little risk to animals. We have very strong anecdotal reports of our products providing benefits to people’s pets (especially Omegaflex for joint problems in dogs) and many of the ingredients are in fact added to pet foods for their proven health benefits. We would recommend seeking professional veterinary advice if you would like to try our products with your pet but have concerns, to ensure safety with a specific medical condition or any contraindications with medications. Should any adverse reactions occur as a result of using our products with animals, cease use immediately.


It is very difficult to say how quickly you will notice benefits because factors such as age, weight, condition and lifestyle can all affect how quickly the fatty acids can get to work. Of all the factors known to influence the effects of omega-3 on any one person, the most important is their baseline (or starting point!) omega-3 levels – better known as the ‘omega-3 index’. Those individuals who have lowest omega-3 levels will need to take higher amounts and for longer than individuals with a higher omega-3 index. . The simplest way to maximise the health benefits from taking one of our omega-3 supplements is by taking the Opti-O-3 fatty acid biomarker test. By providing us with a small amount of blood (a simple process that can be performed in your own home using a finger-pricking device), our laboratory will identify your current levels and from this information we calculate the bespoke dose required to raise your omega-3 levels to those associated with clinical improvements.

With a personalised dose that matches your individual requirements it takes the guesswork out of supplementation and optimises the speed with which the active ingredients start to provide noticeable benefits.

As a standard guideline, however, conditions relating to mental health are often the quickest to respond, whilst those affecting the heart, energy, brain performance and cellular health may take several months. We recommend that individuals should take our products for a minimum of three months before deciding if they are working, though scientific studies show that those taking fatty acids for six months or more benefit from even greater improvement to symptoms.


How much omega-3 you need depends on your current state of health and your dietary intake of omega-3. The current recommended intake of long-chain omega-3 is set at 450 mg (equivalent to around 2 portions of fish per week, one of which is oily). The average UK adult intake is currently approximately 244 mg/day (half of the recommended amount) and, for people who don’t eat any fish at all, intake can be as low as 46 mg daily.

For specific conditions, the amount of omega-3 required tends to be much higher and the ideal ratio of EPA and DHA differs – a full discussion about omega-3 in health versus clinical nutrition is outlined on our EPA vs DHA page. In each of our health pages we provide specific dosages for each ailment.
The Opti-O-3 fatty acid biomarker test identifies your personalised dose requirements based on your red blood cell omega-3 levels and is the most accurate way to establish how much omega-3 you need.


Most of our omega-3 capsules provide approximately 0.5 grams of fat, which is approximately 4.5 kcal per capsule. Omega-3 fatty acids play a very important role in fat metabolism in the body and actually push dietary fat towards the production of energy rather than fat storage. In other words, people are more likely to lose weight by including omega-3 in their diet.


The benefits of omega-3 supplementation for controlling hypertension (high blood pressure) are well established. Since the therapeutic dose required to reduce blood pressure is relatively high, we would recommend an initial dosage of 2 grams of EPA plus DHA. When it comes to managing blood pressure, DHA seems particularly helpful so unless you have any other cardiovascular or inflammatory illness symptoms we would recommend taking 6 capsules of Pharmepa MAINTAIN for at least 3 months before reducing down to 3 per day gradually.


EPA inhibits an enzyme called HMG-CoA, which regulates the rate of cholesterol production in the body. As with recommendations for high blood pressure, the amount of EPA needed is relatively high; we would therefore recommend 4 capsules of Pharmepa RESTORE to achieve 2 grams of EPA daily.


Yes, in fact a combination of statins and EPA has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels more effectively than either substance individually. Statins, like EPA, inhibit an enzyme called HMG-CoA, which regulates the rate of cholesterol production in the body.

Ubiquinol coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is also extremely beneficial for people taking statin medication, as statins directly impair the production of CoQ10, leading to potential deficiencies of this essential energy-supporting nutrient. Many statin users experience general fatigue and restless leg symptoms such as twitching, throbbing, cramping that can be helped by supplementation with ubiquinol.


Simply put, most of our supplements have been developed for clinical use targeting inflammatory symptoms, for which pure EPA omega-3 is most effective. Whilst EPA and DHA are both important fatty acids that are essential for good health, depending on which fatty acid you are targeting and the type of support you need (clinical condition management or general wellbeing) the optimum EPA to DHA ratio differs. The digestion and absorption of fatty acids can influence the incorporation of EPA and DHA and if you are looking to benefit from EPA’s actions specifically, a pure EPA oil is more effective at raising EPA levels than EPA & DHA together – at least for an initial phase of 3-6 months.

Read more about the importance of the EPA/DHA ratio or alternatively see our health pages, since recommendations differ for each area of health.

 

 

 


DHA levels in the body remain fairly stable and due to DHA’s low turnover, we do not need vast amounts of DHA. Technically our body has the ability to produce DHA from EPA, although this enzyme pathway tends to be very inefficient (this very same enzyme is the one responsible for converting short-chain fatty acids to EPA). We recommend including a wide variety of foods rich in short- and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, such as walnuts, flaxseeds and oily fish, whilst taking pure EPA as a clinical intervention for inflammatory control. In addition, for those individuals who wish to know the status of their omega-3 levels, it is now possible to check EPA and DHA blood plasma concentrations with our Opti-O-3 fatty acid biomarker test.

 


The omega-6 fatty acid GLA found in our products containing organic cold-pressed virgin evening primrose oil, is the precursor to a family of anti-inflammatory products that work well together with omega-3 fatty acids (mainly EPA) to help manage immune and inflammatory processes. We include GLA in some of our omega-3 products to ensure a healthy balance of omega-6 to omega-3 is achieved for long-term health benefits.


The omega-6 story is indeed a little confusing. However, omega-3 and omega-6 are two very different families of fatty acids that compete for the same enzymes within the body. This ‘pool’ of enzymes is quite limited, and so whichever family is dominant in the diet will hog the enzymes, meaning there is little left for use by the other family. Because the omega-6 family is dominant in the typical western diet, it can influence the production of beneficial by-products produced by the omega-3 family. Also the omega-6 family forks at one point and can give rise to either inflammatory products or anti-inflammatory products. However, which pathway it follows is dependent on how much omega-3 is in the diet. When omega-6 dominates, then the body tends to produce inflammatory products and very little is produced by omega-3. However, increasing omega-3 actually shuttles the omega-6 pathway down the anti-inflammatory route and reduces the amount of inflammatory products produced by omega-6. We include GLA in our products to ensure that the body produces beneficial products from both families.


Many of customers choose to take our products long-term, often in high-doses. As vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, excess levels are stored within the body, which can result in highly toxic levels. For this reason, all vitamin A is removed from our oils during the purification process.


Vitamin D made in the skin from exposure to sunlight is extremely important for our health and any excess is converted to harmless by-products. However excessive vitamin D intake from supplements, can result in raised blood calcium levels – a condition known as hypercalcaemia.

Whilst Vitamin D is removed from our oils during the purification process allowing high omega-3 EPA doses to be taken safely, we do recognise the vital role vitamin D plays in almost all aspects of our health. Recent research shows that vitamin D works alongside EPA to further support many of its health benefits, particularly in the brain and central nervous system. It is for this reason we put vitamin D back into those of our products that are designed to support optimal wellbeing or specifically target the brain. As with all of our products the doses are kept well within the upper tolerable limit whilst still providing the high levels needed for optimal health. It is perfectly safe to take 6 capsules of Maintain or mix Maintain with Mindcare without being at risk of vitamin D toxicity.


Omega-3 fatty acids reduce the ‘stickiness’ of platelets (the cells that cause blood to clot), and this is known to be beneficial for cardiovascular health. Having slightly ‘thinner’ blood increases circulation and also lowers blood pressure. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) state that high dose, long-term intake of EPA & DHA (i.e., 5g/day for two years) does not increase the risk of spontaneous bleeding complications, even in those individuals at a high risk of bleeding such as those taking anti-coagulant medications. Although the consensus is that high EPA, EPA/DHA consumption posses no potential issues for individuals taking pharmaceutical blood-thinning agents such as Warfarin or Heparin, those who undergo regular coagulation tests may wish to inform their GP that they are taking highly concentrated EPA fish oil.


No, we encapsulate all our products. When unsaturated fatty acids in liquid form are exposed to the air, they react with oxygen and can go rancid. The capsule protects the oil from this process and consequently our products do not have to be refrigerated, and have a longer shelf life than liquid oil products.

There are lots of exciting new technologies becoming available to protect liquids from oxygen and ensure their long term stability so in the future we hope to be able to offer a liquid oil that meets the same strict stability criteria we have for our capsules so watch this space!


Taking EPA and DHA containing supplements is extremely beneficial during pregnancy, but it is advisable to make your GP aware. A GP should be able to outline anything in your personal history that may give reason to avoid supplementation during pregnancy. For example, placenta previa, a complication of pregnancy that can result in pre-term bleeding, which could be exacerbated by the blood-thinning effects of EPA.

What about toxins and heavy metals during pregnancy?

As regards to concerns about heavy metals, our products are highly purified to remove contaminants. For those who choose to take our pure EPA products, we recommend eating moderate amounts of oily fish to support DHA levels, important for brain development. Alternatively our EPA and DHA containing products provide comprehensive support for those women who choose not to consume oily fish whilst breastfeeding.

Glucosamine in Omegaflex supplements should not be taken by pregnant women. Pregant women should also avoid MindCare FOCUS, which contains caffeine.


Taking EPA and DHA containing supplements is extremely beneficial to both mother and child during breastfeeding months. For those who choose to take our pure EPA products, we recommend eating moderate amounts of oily fish to support DHA levels, important for brain development. Opt for smaller, short-lived species such as mackerel, anchovies and sardines to minimise intake of heavy metals. Alternatively our EPA and DHA containing products provide comprehensive support for those women who choose not to consume oily fish whilst breastfeeding.


Some of the vitamin E in our products contain vitamin derived from soya. During the manufacturing process, however, all protein materials are removed and the final product is therefore non-allergenic and safe for individuals who are sensitive to soya protein. We are transitioning most of our products to a new non-soya derived vitamin E source so very soon all of our products will be soya free.


Some of our products now contain natural lemon oil which significantly improves the flavour of the oil and so it is perfectly fine to split capsules if necessary. Splitting our highly concentrated oil without the lemon oil flavouring is not generally advisable as they have a strong fish flavour. We developed Vegepa E-EPA 70 Orange Chewables for people who have problems swallowing capsules. These contain a paste inside, and have a pleasant orange taste. They are sugar-free and naturally flavoured. However if the flavour of the oil is not an issue there is no harm in squeezing out the contents just before use.


Salicylates are chemicals that can trigger symptoms in conditions such as ADHD and are commonly found in citrus fruit such as oranges. Whilst we use natural orange oil to mask the taste of the fish oil, we have ensured the product is free from salicylates and is therefore safe for children with ADHD. Vegepa Chewables are also free from artificial colourings and flavourings.


People with diabetes have a reduced capacity to make long-chain fatty acids and are at a higher risk of cardiovascular and nerve problems. Supplementing with omega-3 is extremely beneficial for people with diabetes, as a way of decreasing the risk of associated health problems long-term. Ubiquinol coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is also extremely beneficial for people taking statin medication, as statins directly impair the production of CoQ10, leading to potential deficiencies of this essential energy-supporting nutrient. Our dedicated diabetes health page describes in detail the lifestyle and dietary factors shown to help manage the condition and associated side effects.


While most glucosamine is derived from shellfish, the Glucosagreen hypoallergenic glucosamine in our products is derived from the fungus Aspergillus niger. As it is a plant-based source of glucosamine hydrochloride (HCL), Glucosagreen glucosamine is suitable for those with shellfish allergies, and is also the best source for purity.


Glucosamine hydrochloride has approximately 85% working glucosamines compared to 65% in the sulphate form, making it purer and more easily absorbed in the body.


The heart health contraindications of calcium relate to those supplements derived from rock or limestone. Our calcium is derived from a natural food source – a type of seaweed, which is more bioavailable in the body and is readily utilised. Unfortunately, the body struggles to absorb rock-derived calcium, which is therefore then free to travel around the circulation and become deposited in arterial plaque. It is this calcified arterial plaque clogging arteries that leads to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Dr Nina Bailey explains in more detail here


Much of the early evidence suggesting that glucosamine can impact negatively on glucose levels came from animal studies. No human studies have shown that glucosamine raises blood glucose levels, possibly because the amount of glucosamine within supplements simply isn’t enough to elicit a response, therefore we have no reason to believe that the levels of glucosamine in our supplements raises any safety concerns for diabetics.


Yes, there is increasing research that implies that taking an EPA-rich supplement may boost the effectiveness of antidepressants in some people. The addition of a daily dose of omega-3 EPA to regular antidepressant treatment has been shown to significantly improve symptoms including anxiety, sadness, decreased sexual drive and suicidal tendencies.


There are very strong indications that EPA can help relieve migraines by reducing both their severity and recurrence. EPA is converted to anti-inflammatory products within the body, which act in the same way as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.