Ahiflower oil vs. other essential fatty acid oil sources
What are the essential fatty acid components of Ahiflower oil?
Ahiflower offers a rich single-plant source of omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and SDA (stearidonic acid); omega-6 GLA (gamma linolenic acid) and LA (linoleic acid); and omega-9 OA (oleic acid). To see a simple specifications sheet for Ahiflower oil, click here.
I’ve not heard much about SDA before. What is SDA and why should I care?
Like ALA (alpha-linolenic acid, the most common form of plant-based omega-3), SDA (stearidonic acid) is a long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA), and both are converted to the longer-chain fatty acid EPA, which can be obtained from some fish. People seek to increase their tissue EPA levels in order to improve cardiovascular, cognitive, joint, and immune functions—most often from fish oils. The advantage of SDA relates to the efficiency of its conversion to EPA. When consumed in food, SDA converts directly to EPA, while ALA has to convert first to SDA, then to EPA. A liver enzyme (known as delta-6-desaturase) is required to convert ALA to SDA—and this becomes a rate-limiting step. Since providing SDA directly bypasses this step, it is metabolized more efficiently, resulting in higher levels of EPA in the body. A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled human trial revealed that Ahiflower oil converted to EPA 3 to 4 times better than flaxseed oil. Ahiflower contains 18 – 20% SDA, the highest level of naturally occurring SDA of any commercially available dietary plant oil. Only a few other specialty oilseed crops contain any SDA (echium, hemp, and blackcurrent seed), and there is no SDA in flaxseed, chia, perilla, or sacha inchi.
How does Ahiflower oil compare to marine omega sources like fish and krill?
Ahiflower oil does not contain EPA or DHA, which are the main fatty acids present in marine oils (e.g., fish and krill) and algal oils. Ahiflower instead contains the omega-3s SDA (a precursor to EPA) and ALA at high levels. In addition, Ahiflower contains the omega-6 fatty acid GLA, which is prized and recognized for its anti-inflammatory cellular benefits, and is not found in marine oils. People seeking a more sustainable, traceable, and single-plant source for omega 3-6-9 fatty acids will benefit from Ahiflower oil. Marine omega-3 fatty acid sources face issues related to finite supply, sustainability, possible contamination (e.g., bio-accumulation of heavy metals and radiation), formulation challenges, and are generally not appropriate for vegetarian or vegan diets.
How does Ahiflower oil compare to algal oils?
As with fish oils, algal oils contain EPA and/or DHA, while Ahiflower does not, but algal oils do not contain omega-6 GLA, which is prized and recognized for its anti-inflammatory cellular benefits. Though algal oils are becoming a more common option vs. marine omega-3 fatty acid sources, food and supplement formulators find that algal oils are too expensive in many situations.
How does Ahiflower oil compare to other common plant oils like flaxseed oil?
Most plant-sourced omega fatty acid oils contain omega-3 ALA and omega-6 LA. Few contain omega-6 GLA in meaningful quantities. Even fewer contain any SDA at all. Ahiflower is unique in that it contains ALL of these components, and its highest-available SDA content results in a far more efficient conversion to EPA in the body as compared to flax and other oils that primarily supply ALA. To put this into perspective, it would take 4 softgels of flaxseed oil to yield the same amount of beneficial EPA in the body as 1 softgel of Ahiflower oil. Click here to see a chart that compares Ahiflower oil composition with flax and other plant oils.
I hear that a balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is ideal for health. What is that ratio for Ahiflower?
There is a 4:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in Ahiflower oil, which supports a heart-healthy dietary intake (including low carbohydrates and saturated fats). Most published health resources including the American Heart Association state that increasing the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is ideal in the Western diet, which tends to predominate in omega-6 and/or saturated fats. Unfortunately, the typical Western diet doesn’t provide enough omega-3 fatty acid sources to improve the omega-3:6 ratio, especially for vegetarians who prefer not to eat fish. Consuming Ahiflower oil as part of a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle will help increase one’s omega-3: omega-6 ratio.
Health & Safety
What are the health benefits of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids?
The health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids are well documented and accepted worldwide. The main health benefits are reduced risks of heart disease (when consumed alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle), reduced joint inflammation, and improved cognitive function and/or reduced depression.* Omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and also protect against heart disease.* Since the body does not make these nutrients itself and they are an essential part of cellular functioning, they have to come from the diet. Nutritional scientists and formulators regularly include Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in dietary supplements and functional foods/beverages as a way to improve recommended daily intakes of these essential fatty acids.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
I read that Ahiflower has received a Letter of no objection to GRAS from the FDA. What does that mean?
As part of our effort to demonstrate to our customers that Ahiflower oil is a safe ingredient, our company invested in the “Generally Recognized as Safe” notification process created by the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Food Additive Safety. After filing “GRAS self-affirmation” in August 2013, Ahiflower proceeded with the required process to prove that all necessary research had been performed, including the formation of an expert panel to review safety concerns. On December 23, 2014 Ahiflower received a letter of no objection from the FDA, thus favorably conferring FDA GRAS review status on Ahiflower oil.
Are the crops tested for identity and contaminants such as heavy metals or pesticides?
Ahiflower germplasm is controlled by Nature’s Crops, and the botanical identity of all Buglossoides arvensis varieties that meet Ahiflower oil specifications are tested and validated by Nature’s Crops, with back-up validation by crop science partners in the UK. Every batch of seed produced is checked for species identity by a qualified seed analyst. The purity of Ahiflower oil is assured by rigorous testing of every master batch for heavy metals, pesticides, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, micro-organisms, PCBs, dioxins, and furans at extremely low levels of detection, meeting all international standards. FDA has reviewed the scientific dossier on Ahiflower’s quality control specifications and the Agency issued a letter of no objection to Nature’s Crops in December 2014.
Is Ahiflower oil produced from a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)?
No. No GMO techniques have been used in the development of Ahiflower as a new crop. All breeding and selection work has been performed using conventional selection techniques which were in common use a hundred years ago.
How is oxidation measured and prevented in Ahiflower oil?
Oxidation occurs naturally in omega-rich oils due to exposure to oxygen. Our in-house laboratory uses internationally-recognized assays (peroxide value, p-anisidine value, and TOTOX) against a very strict specification complying with the tightest international standards. Refined Ahiflower oil cannot be released for sale unless it has a peroxide value (PV) of <5 mEq/kg, a p-anisidine value (AnV) of <15, and a TOTOX value less than 20. These measures of primary and secondary oxidation are set very low to assure Ahiflower’s excellent sensory and stability properties in every batch.
NCI prevents oxidation in Ahiflower oil by storing it under inert nitrogen gas cover at all times and by keeping the bulk oil stored at <4° C. Further, Ahiflower oil is stabilized with an all-natural, non-GMO antioxidant. Bulk refined Ahiflower oil carries a 24 month stability guarantee from date of manufacture.
How is Ahiflower oil’s quality assured in every master batch?
Ahiflower oil’s quality is a combination of its potency, its purity, and its identity. NCI guarantees the quality of each batch of Ahiflower oil. The potency of Ahiflower oil is measured and guaranteed as minimum levels of omega-3 SDA and ALA, and of omega-6 GLA and LA. These are measured using an internationally-accepted AOCS method for measuring fatty acids in dietary oils. Ahiflower oil’s purity is guaranteed by third-party testing following published, peer-reviewed analytical methods for microbials, heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs, PAHs, and pyrollizidine alkaloids. The results of all of these tests are compiled and reported on every Certificate of Analysis for every master batch.
We have combined botanical taxonomic identity confirmation methods with characteristic fatty acid profiling of the seed oil to authenticate the botanical identity of each batch of Ahiflower oil. We confirm the correct proportion of fatty acids in Ahiflower Oil as above. Because of the uniqueness of this seed oil, the fatty acid ratios are diagnostic of correct botanical identity and allow us to rule out any potentially contaminating oils.
Since NCI controls the production of this crop entirely from soil to oil, we maintain representative samples of seed lots harvested each year. These harvested seed samples are independently verified and analyzed by qualified third-party technicians who positively identify not only Buglossoides arvensis under microscopy but any other seed species that may be present at low levels. We further inspect each farm and each crop as it is growing, to assure no significant cross-contamination by other species. The result is our proprietary CropAssured365® system, assuring quality and integrity in every batch of Ahiflower oil, from “soil to oil… naturally”.
What does Ahiflower oil taste like?
Ahiflower oil has a rich, earthy taste characteristic of high-PUFA oils, with a clean, slightly nutty finish. It offers a significant flavor advantage over fish, krill, algal, and even flax oils. Once opened, Ahiflower oil should be kept refrigerated to prevent oxidative flavor changes.
Can I replace my daily fish oil supplement with an Ahiflower oil supplement?
If you are actively seeking a high amount of DHA in your daily diet, you will still need to take a supplemental DHA source that could include marine (e.g., fish or krill) sources. Keep in mind that there are alternative DHA sources to fish oil, especially algal oils, which in combination with Ahiflower oil would provide robust omega-3 supplementation in a healthy vegetarian diet.
What is the shelf life?
Ahiflower oil has a shelf-life before opening of at least 24 months. Shelf-life once opened and exposed to air will depend on the formulation, and this will be shown on the label. Keeping Ahiflower refrigerated will preserve its freshness.
Should Ahiflower oil be refrigerated?
After opening, products containing Ahiflower oil will better retain freshness if kept refrigerated, however this will depend on each individual finished product; the manufacturers’ recommendations should be followed.
Can I use Ahiflower oil for cooking?
Ahiflower oil may be used in any food which is prepared at low or ambient temperatures (such as salad dressings, smoothies, and ice cream). It should not however be exposed to high temperatures as this will make the oil go rancid quickly, like other oils having a high polyunsaturated fatty acid content (eg: hemp). Cooking with the oil is therefore not recommended and, in particular, it should not be used for frying or high-temperature baking.
Is Ahiflower gluten free?
Is Ahiflower Kosher certified? Halal?
Yes. Ahiflower oil is certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union. Ahiflower oil is Halal certified by the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of Canada.
Are there any allergens in Ahiflower oil?
No allergic reactions have ever been reported in connection with Ahiflower oil or with the source plant (Buglossoides arvensis). Protein levels are reduced to such a low level during refining that, even if unknown allergens were to be present, it is extremely unlikely that they could provoke a reaction.
Are any animal products processed in the facility where Ahiflower oil is processed?
No. Ahiflower oil is fully vegan, Kosher- and Halal-certified.
About the plant
What plant and plant part does Ahiflower oil come from?
Ahiflower oil is pressed and extracted from the seeds of non-GM, proprietary varieties of Buglossoides arvensis, which is a small annual or biennial herb in the Boraginaceae (Borage) family. As part of the trademark process, Ahiflower varieties are registered under the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) protocols.
Where is the Ahiflower crop grown?
Currently commercial crop production is in the United Kingdom, with additional crop development work underway in the United States and Canada as well as the southern hemisphere.
Is the Ahiflower crop certified organic?
Ahiflower oil is not certified organic but it is fully non-GM and each batch is tested free of pesticides and other potential impurities like heavy metals, PCBs, and PAHs. In order to grow Ahiflower successfully and obtain large enough seed yields to keep the price of Ahiflower oil competitive, conventional weed control is necessary. The crop requires very little, if any, further conventional treatments all the way through harvest of the mature seed. The post-harvest cleaning and oil refining process assures that no trace pesticides can be detected in the finished oil. Remember, certified organic does not mean pesticide-free, only free of non-approved pesticides added during cultivation.
What makes the Ahiflower cultivation story sustainable?
Ahiflower is grown commercially by small independent farmers under exclusive contracts with Nature’s Crops. Ahiflower’s cultivation is sustainable because Ahiflower is non-GM and provides a new rotational option for conventional wheat and oilseed rape (OSR) growers who must increase the biodiversity of their crop rotations following soil conservation regulations. Because Ahiflower derives originally from a native plant species, it does not require heavy applications of water, fertilization, or other agricultural inputs (in contrast to vegetables, wine grapes or cereals used to make beer). Conventionally-grown Ahiflower meets all environmental (soil, air, water, and agricultural input) requirements in the UK’s stringent and tightly monitored crop production system. Unlike marine sources of omega‑3 fatty acids, which are experiencing supply chain disruptions, Ahiflower oil can be farmed—from “soil to oil”—as a rotational break crop by an ever-increasing network of trained, conscientious growers in the UK, Canada, and the USA. Because Ahiflower is only available from growers licensed and trained by Nature’s Crops to maximize the quality and purity of their yields, Nature’s Crops can assure the sustainability of Ahiflower oil for the long-term.
Why does Ahiflower have higher SDA values than those typically reported for Buglossoides arvensis?
Our patience with non-GM selection and plant breeding of Buglossoides arvensis (Ahiflower’s native germplasm source) over more than 10 years has resulted in higher-yielding, more robust and vigorous varieties, plus a richer oil profile in the seed. Ahiflower seed oil contains approximately 20% SDA, reflecting more than a 40% difference in SDA content vs. wild varietals occurring in various parts of the world as a weed species.
Would it be better to eat the ground up Ahiflower seed meal instead of the processed oil? Is there a reason why the Ahiflower seed meal can’t be consumed raw?
Ahiflower seeds come from the plant Buglossoides arvensis which was once botanically named Lithospermum arvense. In Latin, Litho = stone, spermum = seed. “Stoneseed” is actually one of the colloquial names for this plant. The harvested seeds are like tiny little BBs and are very hard, as the name suggests. They are not particularly edible, even when ground up. (Birds and foraging animals leave them alone.) More importantly, however, because these seeds are naturally from the Boraginacea family (like comfrey and borage), they contain naturally-occuring low levels of pyrollizidine alkaloids (PAs) which are hepatotoxic. The raw seeds and the raw oil from the seeds therefore are not permitted to be sold as food in the USA, Canada, or the EU. The steam distillation, de-gumming, and natural filtration through which raw Ahiflower oil is processed naturally eliminates the PAs below 1 part per billion, the limit of detection. Only naturally refined Ahiflower oil is legal to manufacture and sell to consumers.
What are good amounts of essential PUFAs you should take?
WHO and other recognized international dietary health bodies recommend a minimum of 200-250 mg EPA equivalent per day. Because of Ahiflower oil’s superior EPA conversion vs. flax and other plant-derived (ALA-rich) omegas, one can achieve the minimum recommended daily intake with about 2-2.5 grams of Ahiflower oil per day vs. about 6-11 grams of flax oil. Keep in mind as well that the American Heart Association and other cardiovascular health authorities have recognized the importance of maintaining a healthier balance of omega-3 vs. omega-6 fatty acids. Ahiflower oil has a natural omega-3:6 ratio of about 4:1, achieved with the highest-available SDA content and a beneficial GLA content, making it the most biologically advanced omega-3-6-9 source available from a single non-GMO plant. (Supplementing with a DHA algal source will meet DHA intake needs, if desired.) FDA allows that foods with a minimum of 320 mg omega-3 ALA per daily serving can claim to be “High” in this essential fatty acid. Each 750 mg Ahiflower softgel provides about 320 mg ALA.
FDA allows a qualified health claim (“may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease”) for EPA and DHA when an adult consumes 2 grams EPA+DHA fatty acids per day. FDA does not differentiate between EPA or DHA content in allowing this claim.
What is the conversion rate of SDA to EPA and DHA?
SDA converts to EPA on average at a rate of 30%, however diet, lifestyle, and stress factors (e.g., alcohol consumption, smoking) can influence all conversion rates. Vegetarians and vegans are known to convert essential omega-3 fatty acids more efficiently than people consuming higher saturated fat diets. Ahiflower oil has been shown in a randomized, double-blinded human clinical trial (published in the British Journal of Nutritional Science) to convert to EPA up to 4x more efficiently than flaxseed oil, a common vegan omega-3 supplement choice. Ahiflower oil has not been demonstrated in human clinical trials to convert significantly to DHA, although other human clinical trials have shown that ALA-rich plant oils can convert to small amounts of DHA.
Is it wise to take a pre-formed highly unsaturated EFA supplement (EPA/DHA)?
There are some issues that surface related to people who are taking blood-thinning medications. This is in part why FDA set a limit of 2 grams per day EPA+DHA consumption. Generally, omega-3 supplementation enjoys broad consensus as having beneficial cardiovascular, joint health, skin health, and brain health benefits.