Found—The Missing Link in Omega-3 Nutrition: Super DPA from Menhaden Fish Oil
Alex Byelashov, Ph.D., M.P.H., is the manager of research and development at Omega Protein Corp. He holds a doctorate in food science safety from Colorado State University, and master's degrees from Iowa State University and Yale University's School of Public Health. Dr. Byelashov has authored/coauthored multiple research papers, press articles, scientific reports and book contributions, and serves as an active member of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED) scientific committee.
SWANSON: Dr. Byelashov, we're very excited to be the first company in America to introduce the new Super DPA from North Atlantic menhaden fish. Most people are familiar with EPA/DHA in fish oils, but what can you tell us about what you refer to as "the missing link" essential fatty acid DPA?
DR. BYELASHOV: Lee, EPA and DHA fatty acids are among the most documented in nutrition research. However, a third key fatty acid, docosapentaenoic acid—DPA—has been shown to play probably the most powerful role in key health outcomes. DPA is an elongated version of EPA and has drawn the attention of scientists because it is present in relatively high levels in the diets of the Greenland Inuit people, a population group with exceptional cardiovascular health.
SWANSON: Are the Inuit so healthy because they consume a lot of fish?
DR. BYELASHOV: That's certainly part of it, but they also consume whale and seal meat and blubber, which are extremely rich in DPA. Generally, Americans do not consume Inuit staples. But, it appears that menhaden, one of the most abundant shallow-water species, is extremely high in naturally-occurring DPA.
SWANSON: I had never heard of the menhaden fish. What type of fish is it?
DR. BYELASHOV: Menhaden fishing has been conducted since colonial times in the U.S. It is a small, oily-fleshed fish found in the North Atlantic Ocean. Although its bony and oily characteristics remain obstacles for its use for direct consumption, the oil is becoming increasingly valuable as a nutritional supplement. The menhaden oil found in your new Super DPA softgels is derived from freshly-harvested fish and is scientifically documented to contain more DPA than any other fish oil. In addition, our molecular distillation process not only allows us to achieve the highest levels of purity, but to also increase the percentage of DPA in each softgel.
SWANSON: You refer to DPA as the "missing link" fatty acid. Why?
DR. BYELASHOV: Thousands of scientific studies support the health benefits of fish oils. But, typically health benefits of oils were attributed to EPA and DHA, because these fatty acids are present in significant quantities in marine oils. Also, purified EPA and DHA are readily available for clinical trials. DPA did not receive as much attention as the other two fatty acids merely because many fish oils don't have much DPA, and because of the limited availability of purified compound. There is an old joke about a drunk who was looking for his keys under a streetlight. He had dropped the keys elsewhere, but the light was better under the lamppost. Similarly, many researchers had been so focused on EPA and DHA, that they overlooked DPA, a very important nutrient.
SWANSON: So what does current science tell us about the health benefits of DPA?
DR. BYELASHOV: It is important to realize that levels of DPA in human milk and blood of healthy humans are similar or higher than those of EPA. This was demonstrated in multiple studies on different populations. This suggests that DPA has an important role in our body; it's there for a reason.
Also, multiple studies demonstrate that higher blood levels of DPA are associated with better health. For example, a recent Harvard study that involved 30,000 participants showed conclusively that higher plasma concentrations of DPA were associated with much better cardiovascular health.
A British study, the Edinburgh Artery Study, demonstrated that although high levels of omega-3s in blood were related to arterial health, DPA was the only fatty acid that was significantly associated with this outcome measure.
SWANSON: Wasn't there a Japanese study showing similar results?
DR. BYELASHOV: Yes, there were actually a few reports from Japan. One was especially interesting, because it investigated the mechanisms by which omega-3s protect arteries, and found that the protective effect of EPA occurs through DPA, and that DPA was ten times more effective than EPA.
SWANSON: Are there studies on DPA for cognitive function?
DR. BYELASHOV: Research on DPA's role in the brain is just beginning, but early results are extraordinarily promising. Last year Irish researchers demonstrated DPA's ability to help maintain healthy brain function over time. The study showed that DPA mitigates the age-related decrease in spatial learning and long-term potentiation, a major cellular mechanism that underlies learning and memory.
SWANSON: Do you believe that DPA is moving to the forefront of EFA research in regards to helping maintain optimal cardiovascular health and cognitive function?
DR. BYELASHOV: Oh, absolutely, Lee. DPA truly is the "missing link" that, in my opinion, is absolutely essential to anyone seeking to maintain the highest level of cardiovascular health and cognitive function through diet and nutrition. It's right at the cutting edge of nutritional science.
Thanks very much for your time today Dr. Byelashov
DR. BYELASHOV: It's been my pleasure, Lee.