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Digging Deeper into Ahiflower® with Greg Cumberford

Greg Cumberford is vice president of science and regulatory for Nature’s Crops International. He has a 30-plus year career in co-evolved botanical natural wellness products research, innovation, and commercial development. For Greg, it's all about bringing forward co-evolved plant-based wellness solutions. Greg shares on his LinkedIn page, "When we align personal, community, and bioregional wellness by contemporizing ancient wisdom traditions rooted in healing plants, we make deep ecological and social vitality possible once again. Everything I do is about honoring, authenticating, and remembering where wellness - biological, ecological, and spiritual - comes from." 

It's an honor to have Greg join us as we dig a bit deeper into the beauty of Ahiflower® Oil


1.     Why should consumers consider taking a plant-based omega?

Omega metabolism: Every cell in our bodies needs a balance of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to function properly and assure that our immune, skin, cognitive, joint, and cardiovascular systems can perform optimally for us — so that we can look well, move well, and feel well at any stage of our lives. Our bodies can’t make essential omega fatty acids; we have to get them from our diets. Among plant-based omegas, Ahiflower oil provides the richest, most complete and balanced combined essential fatty acids — and more biologically advanced omegas — than you can get from any other non-GMO plant source. Ahiflower oil contains good levels of anti-inflammatory omega-6 GLA, which is not even present in flaxseed, chia, or camelina seed oils. In controlled human clinical trials, Ahiflower oil showed up to 4x better conversion through to long chain omega-3 EPA vs flaxseed oil. So the body naturally converts Ahiflower oil more efficiently to the same long-chain omega-3’s found in fish and krill oils, yet has a clean, nutty flavor with no fishy after-effects and supplies an excellent balance with beneficial omega-6 fatty acids that support a healthy inflammatory response.


Sustainability: With Natures Crops International’s leadership in plant derived omega nutrition, we require nothing less than a completely sustainable oilseed supply chain. Consumers are becoming more aware of the serious problems associated with depletion of ocean ecosystems, and they are therefore seeking plant-based omega alternatives that are sustainable over time and sourced with respect for the planet. For example, each acre of our plant-based Ahiflower oil contains an omega oil equivalent of 320,000 anchovies—currently the dominant global source of omega-3 fish oil. Sustainability is a complex subject and often used interchangeably with terms such as traceability, locally sourced, minimally processed, etc., so when we look at sustainability, we try to factor all of these into our supply chain principles and practices, whilst also providing complete transparency ‘from soil to oil’ throughout our supply chain. This is important for consumers to know because it speaks as much about the product as it does about our company and our deep knowledge of every component, activity, and its consequences throughout our supply chains, right back to the UK farmers we work with. We are rapidly transitioning all Ahiflower crop production and processing to regenerative practices. This means giving more back to the soil ecosystem — pollinators, earthworms, beneficial soil microbes — and to rural farmland biodiversity than it takes to grow our crops, following agronomic practices that build soil fertility and structure, add to carbon capture while minimizing added inorganic inputs. Our customers can be completely confident that we are making environmentally sound decisions upstream and downstream in the supply chain.

2.     What are the biggest differences between marine and plant-based omegas? 

Aside from the obvious difference between sourcing omega lipids from mostly wild-harvested fish or krill vs terrestrially farmed oilseed crops, marine oils contain only omega-3 EPA and DHA, while non-GMO plant-based oils contain essential omega-3 ALA and/or omega-3 SDA which are precursor omega-3’s that the body converts naturally to EPA or DHA as and when needed. For their part, algal omega-3 oils contain mostly DHA which in the wild is how most marine animals accumulate DHA in the first place — ie by eating marine algae. Some plant-based omega sources also contain beneficial omega-6 fatty acids, including essential LA and anti-inflammatory GLA. Marine and algal oils do not contain any significant beneficial omega-6 omegas.


3.     Are there any recent studies you’d like for us to mention in this feature?

Scientists, doctors, and nutritionists who study the benefits of omega-3 rich diets often claim that because eating plant-based omega-3 oils does not significantly elevate circulating DHA levels, that those plant-based omega-3 oil sources are ‘inefficient’. However, Prof. Richard Bazinet, Dr. Adam Metherel, and researchers at the University of Toronto, using a novel carbon isotope ratio marker system with dietary omega-3 oils, have amassed an emerging body of science showing that plant-based omega-3 oils do in fact flux to DHA in both circulating cells and key tissues like the brain and liver. Further, they have shown in humans taking in high levels of DHA alone that DHA does not ‘retroconvert’ to other precursor omega-3’s including EPA and ALA. Most recently, as presented at the ISSFAL/AOCS 2021 conference, this team has shown that Ahiflower oil indeed turns over to circulating DHA relatively quickly and efficiently compared to marine-based DHA, even though the outright levels of circulating DHA are not modified significantly. This emerging science coupled with existing published human science showing Ahiflower oil’s efficient conversion to circulating EPA, indicates strongly that our bodies benefit from taking a more co-evolved, balanced plant-based intake route for supplying all the omegas needed for optimal cellular functioning.


4.     Can you share the importance of regenerative agriculture?

All Ahiflower crops are grown exclusively in the UK by a network of independent farmers who have worked for many years to learn how to grow this crop reliably with minimal inputs and using regenerative farming practices. These practices include increasing soil microbial and pollinator activity, enhancing crop biodiversity, increasing soil organic matter (eg, from composted manures and crop residues), leaving roots in place and minimizing tillage, and practicing multi-year crop rotations — all measurably improve the resilience, fertility, and health of the rural farmland ecosystems in which Ahiflower crops are grown.


Because the crops are grown only in the UK by elite farmers whose ability to document their farming practices on their fields is world-class, every annual Ahiflower harvest is traceable back to the specially selected Ahiflower varieties, fields, and farms on which the crops were grown. Every batch of Ahiflower oil is likewise documented and traceable to its source farms and regions in the UK. The dominant omega-rich oils like flax, hemp, evening primrose, and borage are generally commodified oils produced all over the world and combined in such a way that traceability is lost.


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