This week I had the pleasure of meeting Melanie Lawson the owner of Bare biology, one of my favourite fish oils that I use in clinic.
In clinic and on social media I am always talking about the important of good quality omega 3 products, both in our diet through oily fish and in supplements. I regularly see people deficient in these and wanted to sit down with Melanie and find out more about the Bare Biology story.
Interview – Melanie from Bare Biology
I love the story of how Bare Biology started, could you share with our readers why you set up the company?
Most businesses start in the same way, a personal passion or not being able to find a product or service you want. Or not being able to find one that meets all your standards, so you decide to do it yourself. My business started for all the above reasons. I suffered from pre and post natal depression with my second child and, having witnessed my own mother being hospitalised with depression, I knew I had to do something. I did lots of research into diet and nutrition for mental health and found out how amazing Omega 3 is.
I then tried to find a good Omega 3 supplement, but once I understood what to look for in a supplement (see below!) I realised there weren’t any available that I would be happy to give to my own children. Most lack any guarantees of purity, none are transparent about their ingredients and nearly all taste awful or repeat on you!
Why are fish oils so important?
If you visit a nutritional therapist or read any advice about which supplements to take, Omega 3 is always the first one on the list. Widely believed to be one of the main reasons we developed as a human race to become the intelligent beings that we are, anthropological research shows that populations based near the sea or rivers developed intelligence at a much faster rate because they ate lots of fish.
Our skin contains DHA and Omega 3 fatty acids are responsible for the health of the skin’s cell membrane, which acts as a barrier to harmful compounds and impacts the cell’s ability to hold water. A healthy barrier keeps our skin moisturized, soft and plump. Clinical trials have also shown the anti-inflammatory effect of Omega 3 on conditions such as psoriasis, acne and rosacea.
60% of our brain matter is fat of which about 20% is DHA, which is required for healthy synapse formation, mood regulation, babies’ brain development in the womb and during breastfeeding.
There are many other health benefits for all ages and most people in western societies have an Omega 3 deficiency, so it’s a great addition to any health regime.
As a practitioner I regularly recommend your fish oils as they are high strength but how do you stand out from your competitors?
In three words, it’s in the strength, purity and freshness. Our fish oils contain the highest amounts of EPA and DHA on the market. We’re the first UK brand to have all of our batches independently tested by the International Fish Oil Standards programme. It’s quite well known in the USA and Canada where people are clued up about making sure their fish oil is pure and safe. We have every single batch tested for purity (things like mercury, arsenic and PCBs – carcinogenic plastic residues in the sea), freshness and strength. We also publish all of our own test results on our website for every batch, nobody else does this. In fact, we test our oils three times before they reach the customer!
When people are buying fish oils what should they always look out?
First of all, fish or veggie?
Unless you’re a strict vegetarian, choose a fish oil rather than a vegetable or seed oil such as flax or chia. In vegetarian sources, the Omega 3 is in a form known as ALA and our bodies have to convert this into EPA and DHA (the most important types we need). Most people convert very little, in the region of 5% if we’re lucky. These oils are also very high in Omega 6, which isn’t good for us in large amounts and counteracts the benefits of Omega 3.
Are you put off because of fishy burps or nightmare childhood memories of cod liver oil?
When you buy fresh fish, it shouldn’t smell at all. A fishy smell is a sign of oxidation, which means the fats have turned rancid. A study done in Australia found that the vast majority of fish oil supplements are rancid. Not only does this mean they repeat on you, oxidized fats are really bad for us. Freshness and careful handling of the oil is key. Look for a brand that publishes its test results for oxidation and that has independent certification.
Fish oils can contain high levels of mercury and other types of pollution, like PCBs, from the sea.
Purity is so important. Pregnant women are advised to avoid certain fish or eating too much tuna due to high levels of mercury, so you need to be sure your fish oil is free from any nasties. Again, look for brands that publish test results and have independent checks done.
The smaller the fish the better. Look for supplements made from small, oily fish such as sardines or mackerel. They’re small and have short life spans which means they don’t build up large amounts of contaminants from the polluted oceans.
How to read the label to understand what you’re getting for your money.
The amount of EPA and DHA is crucial. These are the two types of Omega 3 we’re after and the reason for taking a supplement. Don’t be fooled by labels like ‘1,000mg capsules’, this is just the weight of the capsule, the EPA and DHA content is generally less than 20%. A very well known high street brand that calls itself ‘high strength’ has only a few hundred milligrams per capsule. A waste of money and it won’t make any difference to your health because there’s just not enough in the capsule. Read the small print on the back of the label to see how much EPA and DHA you get per dose.
Why is it so important to keep our omega 3:6 ratio at 1:1 and what causes the western diet to lead to a much more omega 6?
Omega 6 is found in vegetable oils and seeds among other sources and is way too abundant in our diets, which can cause health problems. Omega 6 is pro-inflammatory and blocks the absorption of Omega 3 as they compete for the same conversion enzymes. In other words, you could be eating lots of oily fish but if you’re eating lots of Omega 6 from vegetable oils you could be cancelling out the goodness.
Personally, as a mum of 3 what are your essentials for keeping your energy high and managing a career and motherhood?
Getting to bed as early as possible during the week. Drinking loads and loads of water. Steering clear of booze during the week and eating three healthy meals a day. I never skip meals (unless I’m experimenting with intermittent fasting which I really hate!). I take a probiotic, fish oil (of course), vitamin D in the winter and magnesium at night to help me sleep.
I don’t work at the weekends (or very rarely) and focus on my children when I’m with them rather than having one eye on my phone and email. I go through phases of exercising and it does really help. I’m currently going through a no exercise phase as I’ve just moved house and have a terrible cough, but I definitely notice my energy levels are lower as a result.
Well what great advice and thank you so much for spending the time to talk us through this. One question that often comes up for me, is do I need to supplement and why can’t I get through the diet. You absolutely can but if you are deficient it is much harder to get back to optimal without some high strength support that the fish oils provide.
Omega 3 is essential for the optimal functioning of our organs and therefore being low in this can have an impact. Signs of omega 3 deficiency include:
· Mood swings and emotional sensitivity
· Poor concentration and memory
· Soft, peeling or brittle nails
· Dry, dull or lifeless hair
· Rough or dry bumpy skin – especially on the back of arms
Other conditions where research studies have found it to be useful, include:
· High cholesterol and blood pressure
· Cardiovascular disease
· Diabetes Rheumatoid arthritis
· Attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
· Eczema and skin disorders
· Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)