Fat is an important nutrient. It is crucial for normal body function and development. The main function of fats in the body is to provide energy. On oxidation fats provide almost twice the amount of energy as that given by carbohydrates. Fats can also be stored in body for subsequent use. When we consume food which has more energy than is required by the body for performing various functions, the excess food is deposited under our skin in the from of subcutaneous fat.
Functions of fats:
1. In addition to supplying energy, fats also help in forming structural material of cells and tissues such as the cell membrane.
3. Fats also carry the fats soluble vitamins A, D, E and K into the body and help in the absorption of these vitamins in the intestines.
4. Some fats supply essential fatty acids.
Examples of Fats
Fats can be divided into healthy and unhealthy fats:
Healthy fats are:
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of unsaturated fatty acids, which our body needs, but cannot produce itself. Hence, they are known as essential fatty acids and are of two types:6
DHA and EPA have been suggested to be the most important omega-3-fatty acids in human nutrition and should be consumed as part of a normal diet since they cannot be synthesized in the human body. A non-fish (algal) source of DHA serves various advantages over the common fish source.6
Phytoplankton and animals, but not plants, synthesize DHA and EPA. The phytoplanktons and algae are rich and excellent vegetarian sources of DHA and EPA. They also serve as food for fish and marine animals. Seafoods and fish are the richest sources of dietary sources. Poultry and eggs also provide with lower but important sources of EPA and DHA. DHA and EPA are absent from all vegetable fats and oils including nuts, grains and seeds. They are found in very low amount in ruminant fats, milk and dairy products.7,8
Fish had been an excellent source of DHA. However, the industrial advancements have led to contamination of fish sources. Some fish may contain potentially harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals (including mercury), dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Various authoritative bodies and agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Food and Drug Administration recommend that pregnant or nursing women and young children avoid eating fish which might contain higher levels of mercury.9 Thus, the safety of consuming fish for DHA is of great concern the contamination with mercury is associated with several harmful effects on human body.
BioDHA is the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) derived from natural sustainable source, algae. BioDHA provides a completely purest form of vegetarian DHA.
Microalgae, dinoflagellates (dinophyceae) are considered to be very good source of DHA production as they consist of high content of DHA ranging from 12-51%. Various strains of microalgae act as source of DHA- Crypthecodinium cohnii (non-photosynthetic), Amphidinium carteri, Gymnodinium simplex and Gyrodinium cohnii.10 Crypthecodinium cohnii is a marine alga and is used for the commercial production of DHA.11 With a fermentation time of 60-90 hours, the algal biomass of Crypthecodinium cohnii from the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) has been found to yield 15-30% of oil content of which 20-35% has been found to be DHA.10
Thraustochtrids, originally believed to be primitive fungi, have been assigned to the subclass Thraustochytridae. Examples of Thraustochytridae include Thraustochytrium and Schizochytrium species which have been shown to produce DHA (>0.5 g/L) in relatively short fermentation times. The DHA content derived from these two species ranges from 25-60% of total fatty acids. The polyunsaturated fatty acids produced by these species are mainly in the form of triglycerides or oils. Data suggests that in Schizochytrium spp. lipid content was 77.5% of biomass and DHA content was 35.6% of total fatty acids.10
BioDHA is beneficial for all the stages of life. Several clinical researches have revealed that the DHA plays a vital role in the prevention and treatment of numerous diseases. In particular the DHA has shown to have beneficial effects in the development of fetal brain, optimal development of motor skills and visual acuity in infants and lipid metabolism in children and adults. Furthermore, it has also found that the DHA offers beneficial effects on cardiovascular complications and supports cognitive function in elderly people.
While the vegetarian diet provides sub-optimal levels of DHA, the non-vegetarian diet from fish possesses the risk of contamination with heavy metals and mercury. DHA is essential at all stages of life as it plays an important role in brain development (especially during fetal development and infancy), eye and heart health.
Today's hectic lifestyle patterns, improper food habits, incorporation of junk and high levels of stress added to decline in dietary consumption of essential fatty acids has led to DHA deficiencies among individuals. Furthermore, increased awareness and reduction of saturated fats, 'bad fats', in diet has also led to reduction in 'good fats' such as DHA from normal diet. Studies suggest the importance of supplementing 1,000-1,500 mg DHA in children and 2,000-6,000 mg for adults in individuals who demonstrate signs of DHA deficiency.8
Individuals with limited intake of meat and egg and individuals with vegetarian diet may show signs of DHA deficiency. The major categories of individuals in whom DHA supplementation has been suggested include the following