Omega-3 fatty acids more effective when taken with lecithin
Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are extremely interesting substances. They protect the heart and blood vessels, reduce the chance of overweight and protect against stress, depression and psychoses. And that's the tip of the iceberg. Supplementation with lecithin probably boosts the positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids. Lecithin improves the uptake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Researchers at the Dutch company Nutricia wrote in Lipids about how they gave rats three different types of food for three weeks: standard food [Control], food containing 0.8 g fish oil per kg [Fish oil] and food containing 0.8 g fish oil and 1 g lecithin [Fish oil + lecithin].
The body absorbs fatty acids - including omega-3 fatty acids - from food once the digestive system has packaged the fatty acids in globules. These globules are called micelles. In the small intestine the fatty acids are repackaged in other globules, called chylomicrons [one is shown below], and then released into the bloodstream.
In the formation of micelles and chylomicrons the body uses phosphatidylcholine [chemical structure shown on the right], the biggest component in lecithin. So in theory you'd expect supplementation that combines lecithin and fish oil to lead to better results than supplementation with only fish oil.
The increase in concentration of EPA and DHA was greater in the rats that had been given both fish oil and lecithin in their food than in the rats that had only been given fish oil.
The red blood cells of the rats that had also been given lecithin contained more omega-3 fatty acids. So lecithin not only increases the uptake of omega-3 fatty acids from food, but it also helps the body's cells to absorb more omega-3 fatty acids.
"Dietary DHA-containing oils and crude lecithin have synergistic effects on increasing plasma and red blood cell omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids levels, including DHA and EPA," the researchers summarised.
Lipids. 2016 Jul;51(7):833-46.
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