Mitigating the Effects of Stress

with Algal Omega-3s

April 25, 2022

  • Omega-3 DHA is an essential fat — the human body cannot make it on its own, but every body needs it.
  • Omega-3 DHA plays a fundamental role in the development, functioning, and healthy aging of the brain.
  • Omega-3s have been shown to reduce the extent and effects of inflammation.
  • Inflammation, immune responses, and the gut microbiome are all physiological processes and pathways associated with psychological health and wellbeing.
  • Omega-3 DHA has been shown to positively impact these particular processes and pathways, making it a promising natural solution for deceasing the harmful effects of stress.
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Jane Dummer, RD

There are thousands of self-proclaimed “foodies” positioning themselves as health and wellness experts, but Jane Dummer RD—President of Jane Dummer Consulting—is the real deal. A registered dietitian and respected thought leader in the food industry, Jane holds a Nutrition Science degree from one of the world’s leading food universities. She consults with medium to large food and beverage companies across North America and has made countless media appearances as both a guest and commentator. The author of “The Need for Seeds: How to Make Seeds an Everyday Food in Your Healthy Diet,” Jane is also a writer for Baker’s Journal and a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario. She has served on Scientific Advisory Boards for Danone Canada and the Canadian Foundation of Dietetic Research.


Nutrition plays a key role in brain development and mental health. The role of omega-3 fatty acids in physical health is well established, and their role in mental health is becoming increasingly evident. Omega-3s are involved in a wide range of physiological functions that are related to neurogenesis, neurotransmission, and neuroinflammation. Therefore, they play fundamental roles in the development, functioning, and aging of the brain. As we discussed in The Health Benefits of Omega-3s, they are an essential fat, ones the body cannot make on its own. This means we either need to get our daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids from the foods we eat or from dietary supplements.

For a quick review: 

  • There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
  • ALA is a common omega-3 fatty acid mostly found in plant foods such as flaxseed and walnuts. However, there’s a glitch: the human body can only convert exceedingly small amounts of ALA into EPA and then DHA.
  • This means that consuming “enough” omega-3 in the form of ALA can still lead to a shortfall when it comes to EPA and especially DHA.
  • Therefore, getting EPA and DHA from foods or dietary supplements is the most practical way to increase levels of these omega-3 fatty acids.

A few definitions


  • The process through which new neurons are formed in the brain. This starts in pre-natal development and continues as an adult.


  • The transmission of nerve impulses across a synapse.


  • The process when the brain’s inherent immune system is triggered following an inflammatory challenge such as those posed by injury, infection, exposure to a toxin, age-related decline and/or disease. The inflammatory challenge is characterized by several cellular and molecular changes within the brain.

Most North American adults (including childbearing-age and pregnant people) consume significantly fewer omega-3s than the daily recommended dose of 500mg of DHA and/or EPA(1, 2).

  • These lower intakes cause nutrient shortfalls which can lead to health concerns.
  • Because omega-3s are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation is often at the root of many stress-related concerns, making the effort to increase daily intake is essential for peak health.
  • Hitting the 500mg/day mark can feel next to impossible for many, but especially for vegetarians and vegans. Fortunately, an algal source of DHA represents a safe and equally bioavailable source of DHA for those who prefer plant-based options.


Excellent nutritional habits are a mainstay of physical health, and its importance in mental health is gaining increasing recognition. There has been a recent upsurge in examining the role of nutrition in the development, management, and prevention of mental health disorders. This is a result of understanding that nutrition can influence important pathways associated with psychological health, including inflammation, the gut microbiome, immune responses, and cognitive abilities.

Growing evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in the prevention and treatment of stress-related anxiety (3,4,5,6,7).

  • Omega-3s are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation is often at the root of numerous health concerns, making the effort to increase daily intake essential for peak health (8,9).
  • The presence of anxiety is associated with increased production of proinflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6. Both proteins regulate immune and inflammatory reaction to injury or infections (5).
  • The inflammatory response is pertinent to the pathophysiology of anxiety. Proinflammatory cytokines and cortisol (the main hormone involved in stress and the fight-or-flight response) naturally rise after acute stress in this inflammatory response. It is generally supported that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation leads to decreased inflammatory cytokine production and reduced cortisol reactivity during the inflammatory response (5,6).

The consumption of a high-quality diet, rich in omega-3s, can reduce depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms (3,5,6). Evidence suggests consuming omega-3 fatty acids containing approximately 300 mg of EPA and DHA combined per day demonstrated beneficial effects to decrease stress-related damage and helped with neuroprotection and neuroinflammation (5).


Good, quality sleep is essential for positive health, cognitive functioning, and emotional wellbeing in both children and adults (10,11). Stress, anxiety, and modern-day lifestyle factors including digital dependency may lead to sleep disturbances. Sleep disturbance is a risk factor for several health problems, such as hypertension, weight gain, and decreased longevity. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults 18 to 60 years of age sleep ≥ 7 hours per night (12).

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, is a key component in maintaining proper cell structure and function in the brain (10,11,12,13).

  • Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults (10, 11, 13).
  • DHA assists in the regulation of the production of serotonin and melatonin, which are closely related to the sleep-wake cycle (10,11,12,13,15).
  • DHA is important for sleep quality (11,12) through its role in regulating melatonin production.
  • Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acid levels are associated with healthy sleep duration (15).

Overall, studies support the beneficial role of omega-3s for good sleep quality (10,11,12,14,15). Research in both children dosing at 600 mg of algal DHA daily (10) and adults dosing at 900 mg of DHA daily (11) reveals that supplementing with DHA omega-3 fatty acids may increase sleep quality.


Nutritional intake is vital for human biological function and contributes to the maintenance and improvement of physical and mental health (16). There is increasing interest in the use of nutrient-based therapies in the treatment of mood disorders (9,14,16,18). Healthy lifestyle factors like consuming a balanced dietary plan daily, being active, managing stress, and getting good quality sleep can all impact mood.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a promising natural treatment for mood disorders, with different mechanisms of action proposed (8,9,14,16,17):

  • Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world (9,14,16,17). Studies suggest omega-3 supplementation may lead to improved symptoms in people with depression or anxiety (9,17,18,19,20).
  • One mechanism includes omega-3s easily travelling through the brain cell membrane, interacting with mood-related molecules and biomarkers (8,9).
  • Another mechanism demonstrates marine omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA may reduce depression risk and promote favourable mood by reducing the levels of inflammatory factors such as proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines. These factors are found in a subset of depressed patients and may impact symptoms through a direct effect in the brain (8,9,17).

More than ever, considering the dietary factors that lead to optimal mental wellbeing should be part of your health care plan. Low omega-3 intake may predispose certain individuals to anxiety and depression. This represents an interesting strategy for dietary intervention with omega-3s for these individuals (18). Omega-3 supplementation is a promising natural solution that may have additional beneficial effects for people with mood disorders (9,17).


Chronic (or persistent) pain is a complex problem that affects up to 40 per cent of people in Western populations (21). Unhealthy dietary habits and lifestyles may induce the onset and perception of pain (21,22). The proposed pathophysiology and mechanisms that perpetuate chronic pain are constantly emerging, but persistent low-grade inflammation (neuroinflammation) has been suggested as a primary driver in this process (21,22). Inflammation sometimes persists for a long time, even without an infection or injury, possibly due to stress and unhealthy lifestyle factors. This is called chronic or long-term inflammation.

Omega-3s are known to have anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation is often at the root of many health concerns including pain (21, 22, 23,24).

  • Intake of omega-3s appears particularly suitable in reducing joint pain in several inflammatory conditions initiated by injury, overuse such as in arthritis, age related osteoarthritis or numerous biochemical reactions that occur in rheumatoid arthritis (22).
  • Certain combinations of omega-3s and micronutrients may exert an even greater synergistic effect within the nervous system on inhibiting microglial-mediated neuroinflammation to decrease pain (21,23).

Exercise is often recommended as part of a comprehensive pain management strategy. However, acute muscle soreness (pain) and stiffness from exercise can negatively affect an individual’s ability to start and maintain consistent levels of physical activity. Algal DHA Omega-3 supplementation has been shown to assist in muscle recovery via anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive (pain inhibiting) effects (24), which can help make exercise accessible and maintainable.

Pain can affect quality of life and the ability to perform daily activities (21,22,23). Evidence suggests including omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in the overall anti-inflammatory dietary plan for pain management may help decrease inflammation and inhibit pain. Given the association among pain, inflammation, and metabolic abnormalities noted from mental health irritations described in stress, sleep and mood, a strategic dietary intervention including omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for pain management will most likely contribute to better outcomes for all.

Final Thought

The importance of a healthy dietary pattern should never be underestimated in the management of our physical and mental health. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for optimal health. Omega-3 supplementation is a promising natural solution that may be beneficial in deceasing stress related symptoms, increasing the quality of sleep, impacting the biomarkers to promote a favourable mood, and reducing the low-grade inflammation associated with pain.

Have a question about Algarithm’s vegan Omega-3s? Don’t be shy — get in touch.

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