I’ve spent the last 18 years of my career selling nutritional ingredients into the Food, Beverage, and Supplement industries. Working with some of the largest companies in the world to positively impact consumer health and wellness has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. There were times in my career that I was merely a fly on the wall and a great many other times that I was able to affect change and communicate some of the most important innovations that my industry has seen. But the best part for me personally was seeing behind the veils and learning what is actually good for you, what you need to give to your children and your parents. I’ve sat and listened to people like Dr. Roizen (Dr. Oz’s parter) speak about what he takes personally (with a bunch of listeners scribbling this information on anything they could find) and seen celebrities such as Fabio (who I couldn’t help but hug as we selfie’d) break into this fabulous industry with pure intentions of increasing consumer health and, of course, making money — as this industry is one of the most lucrative ones to invest in.
What have I learned? I’ve learned how important Omega 3s are. I’ve spent about 7 years in total selling Omega 3s and (full disclosure) I am currently selling Omega 3s. My 9-year old eats the oil raw and has been doing so since he was a baby. I liked to joke and say that he was such a yapper as a result. However, it wasn’t a joke as there actually was science out there about Omega 3s improving children’s verbosity. My friends have been getting Omega 3s from me for the holidays, for years.
The one question that I get asked again and again, by industry insiders and outsiders is, What are the differences between them? Why should I take a fish oil instead of just flax? Why all the fuss?
So, here we go. Imagine a long gummy wormlike structure that is dancing. That is what an atomic level snapshot of an Omega 3 fatty acid would look like. These guys live in every cell of your body and in concentrated levels in certain organs (like brain, heart, and eyes). We don’t produce them ourselves, making them ‘essential’. Depending on the shape of the Omega 3, that is where it will live. The longest and gummiest is DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and it is very well known for living in the brain, which is why it is in almost every infant formula in North America and part of every prenatal regimen for pregnant women.
Fish eat algae (or they eat other fish that ate algae) and they get DHA. That is where DHA is from. Imagine, all these fish for years have been getting what they are best known for from such an unassuming source. Fish convert (or digest) a shorter Omega 3 called EPA. While DHA is 22 carbon, EPA is 20. Almost all of the heart health studies that have ever been done on Omega 3s (and there are thousands it seems) have been done on fish oil. The vast majority of these are focusing on EPA. EPA is also the Omega 3 linked to inflammation reduction, with most of the Sports Nutrition and Beauty benefits that you would hear about from Omega 3s.
Then we have flax. Flaxseed oil is generally what you hear about as the vegetarian alternative to fish oil. Its Omega 3 ALA (alpha linolenic acid) has 18 carbons, so it is the shortest Omega 3 of the popular bunch. Much of the media will tell you that it converts to the longer fatty acids such as EPA and DHA. However, this wouldn’t be totally correct. ALA converts to EPA, but very inefficiently (<6%), and hardly any (<1%) converts to DHA.
Industry insiders have been racing for years to find a solution to this dilemma and capture a gap in the market, namely, a clean-tasting and sustainable vegetarian source of EPA. Environmentalists have been wanting the same thing (save the fish!). People who try to avoid fish, who don’t like fishy burps after taking supplements or simply prefer not to ruin their morning breath with a fish oil regimen — they are the group that major companies have been trying to address. At the same time, finding a vegetarian answer without introducing a genetically modified source, has been a dilemma for years.
Ahiflower oil, a bandwagon which I jumped on last year, has finally solved that problem. My company, Nature’s Crops International, looked at this same dilemma about 10 years ago and decided to locate a wild plant source which has the highest levels of naturally-occurring Omega 3s in the world. Why? Because they cared about consumer health and wellness and… because the CEO is a deep sea fisherman truly concerned about ocean health. Ahiflower oil contains SDA (stearidonic acid) which sits between ALA and EPA on the conversion chain and which our bodies naturally convert to EPA up to four times better than flax. In short, it boosts your EPA, without harming any fish!
Now when my friends come over for the holidays, they will be getting Ahiflower supplements in their stockings.
Rena Cohen-First is a VP of Sales who has sold in the Food Ingredient Industry for the past 18 years, selling to the largest food and beverage manufacturers in the world. She is the author of The Authentic Sale, A Goddesses Guide to Business. She has taught online business and leadership classes as an adjunct instructor, studied Professional and Executive Coaching, completed her MBA and Served in the US Army. She resides in San Diego with her two children and husband.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on August 19, 2016.