Recent Findings on Omega-3s and Phospholipids
by Stacey J. Bell, D.Sc., R.D.
Both epidemiological data and intervention studies have shown a role for dietary omega-3s in health management.
Individuals who have the lowest intake of omega-3s are at greater risk for cardiovascular and related conditions. Patients
with these conditions, as well as those with joint issues and mood disorders, benefi t from taking omega-3s in excess of
the recommendations for healthy individuals. As indicated below, the consumption of phospholipids in conjunction with
omega-3s may bring additional health benefi ts. (See “What is a Phospholipid?” on page 2)
Compared to fi sh oil as a triglyceride or as an ethyl ester, omega-3s from phospholipids produced the highest
incorporation of total omega-3s, EPA, and DHA into the plasma phospholipids. In fact, the same increase in plasma EPA
(146%) and DHA (43%) occurred after ingesting 62% less omega-3s from a phospholipid-rich krill oil compared to fi sh
oil. The increased absorption was related to how phospholipids are digested. Fatty acids esterifi ed to phospholipids
are broken down by pancreatic phospholipase A2, which preferentially allows for the absorption of fatty acids in the
sn-2 position. With phospholipids, there is a 50% increased chance of having an omega-3 on the sn-2 position over
other triglycerides and ethyl esters. Krill oils in recent studies have been used as the phospholipid-based arm of the
studies. Three clinical studies showed that small to modest amounts of krill oils produces signifi cantly effi cacious results
compared to using fi sh oil at more than double these amounts.