SmartPrime-OM is a novel omega-3 amplifying dietary supplement from Nutrashure, so we interview Dr. Hector Lopez to understand how it boosts EPA/DHA!
Show notes at https://blog.priceplow.com/podcast/dr-hector-lopez-nutrashure-smartprime-064
Are you one of the tens of millions of Americans who have taken an omega-3 supplement? Are you a supplement formulator looking for a new innovation in the fatty acid / fish oil space that might actually improve health?
If so, read on… this podcast and series of show notes is for you.
Optimizing Omega-3 Fatty Acids with Nutrashure’s SmartPrime-Om
We sat down with Brandon Sojka, founder and CEO of Nutrashure (website, Instagram, news alerts), and Dr. Hector Lopez, a specialist in sports medicine and nutritional biochemistry, to discuss Nutrashure’s new ingredient, SmartPrime-OM, which is designed to help optimize the omega-3 levels of those who take it.
This is a novel, naturally-sourced dietary supplement ingredient technology that is one of the most promising things we’ve seen in years.
One of the many interesting things about SmartPrime is that it can raise omega-3 levels independently, without the use of other supplements – but it can also be combined with an omega-3 supplement for an even bigger effect size.
Watch the Video: SmartPrime-Om with Dr. Hector Lopez
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SmartPrime Show with Dr. Hector Lopez and Brandon Sojka
0:43 – Brandon discusses his professional background starting his own brand, doing consulting, and working logistics in the supplement industry.
- 1:37 – Dr. Lopez discusses his professional and personal background, which includes biochemistry and medicine, medical research, consulting with major supplement brands like Nordic Naturals, performing clinical research on ingredients like creatine, vitamins D and K2, collagen, and fish oil, and beginning Supplement Safety Solutions.
Note: Details on this section are at the end of this article. Let’s skip to SmartPrime:
- 8:39 – Background on Nutrashure SmartPrime, the main topic of today’s interview. SmartPrime grew out of a collaboration with its lead inventor Dr. Ryan Yates, who had a special interest in the metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and is author of a study published on SmartPrime’s constituents.
- 10:02 – An overview of different fatty acid lengths, and the characteristics of each.
- 11:38 – Longer-chain PUFAs are typically found in cold-water fish or other marine organisms, like algae. This category includes the famous EPA/DHA combination that most consumers of fish oil supplements will be familiar with.
- 12:06 – Characteristics of PUFAs: the more unsaturated a fat, the more prone it is to oxidation, but also the more powerful it is as a signaling agent in the body.
- 12:47 – Discussion of AI and how it relates to nutritional research. In the opinion of Dr. Lopez, AI is not of much inherent use – AI models and algorithms need to be in the hands of competent researchers who understand the regulatory environment and the current state of nutritional research.
14:25 – Having access to the Oakridge National Laboratory’s AI tools was a “powerful opportunity” for Dr. Lopez and his team to ask some important questions about the current state of fish oil research – they wanted to know why fish oil supplements weren’t performing better in clinical trials, even though “on paper” it should cure almost everything, from cardiovascular disease to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
- 15:13 – What they discovered was that there were some “nutrigenetic” limitations on human fish oil metabolism. This is what ultimately led to the creation of SmartPrime.
- 16:15 – Discussion of how different genotypes affect long-chain polyunsaturated fat metabolism. For example, those with a central African genotype, lacking access to coastal zones, developed alleles that made them hyper-metabolizers of PUFAs, allowing them to make much more of the “end products” from the precursors to EHA/DPA.
- 19:05 – The upshot of this is that “PUFA hyper-metabolizers,” when fed a modern diet rich in long-chain omega-6 precursors and low in long-chain omega-3 precursors, will end up being overloaded by pro-inflammatory long chain PUFAs like arachidonic acid.
- 20:15 – Conversely, people whose ancestors did have access to coastal zones, like people of Nordic descent, are PUFA “hypo-metabolizers,” making them relatively less responsive to the dangers of eating a diet high in omega-6-rich “seed oils.”
- 20:55 – PUFA “hypo-metabolizers” are hyper-responders to fish oil supplements, but PUFA “hyper-metabolizers” need a ton of long-chain omega-3 PUFAs in order for it to make a significant difference in their health.
- 21:34 – Very few studies have controlled for the nutrigenetics of the individuals being enrolled in the study, thus confounding the data on fish oil efficacy.
21:45 – SmartPrime is designed to “help turn on the metabolic machinery” that is downregulated in PUFA hyper-metabolizers like people of Central African descent, helping prevent their metabolisms from over-utilizing the omega-6 pathway, while simultaneously leaving the omega-3 pathway open. This improves their overall omega-3:omega-6 ratio – especially if you combine SmartPrime with a high-quality fish oil supplement.
- 22:40 – What about people with “normal” heterozygous PUFA metabolism genetics, who aren’t hyper-metabolizers? Yes, SmartPrime will benefit them too, by increasing their levels of lignans and other beneficial substances inside, such as sesamin, sesamol, and MSM, key constituents of SmartPrime.
- 23:22 – SmartPrime also increases levels of a biomarker lipid called lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC 18:2), which is basically linoleic acid loaded in an “LPC package”. Several recent research studies, including the Baltimore Longitudinal Study (discussed below), have implicated low LPC 18:2 levels with increased disease states like insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurological disorders.[4-10]
- 24:20 – People with “normal” PUFA metabolism can use SmartPrime to “do more with less”.
- 26:05 – According to the clinical data collected for the SmartPrime patent, if all you did was add 250 to 500 milligrams of SmartPrime to your existing diet and omega-3 supplementation, you’d see a significant increase in your omega-3 index within 8 to 12 weeks, on the order of 35%-45%. That’s a huge difference!
- 27:10 – Omega-3 index definition: the percentage of EPA and DHA that is found in the outer leaflet (membrane) of your red blood cells. This indicates a person’s omega-3 status.
27:33 – There are three main categories of omega-3 status. Less than 4%: very high risk of cardiovascular/cardiometabolic disease. 4-8%: “intermediate,” adequate but less than ideal. Greater than 8%: optimal levels of omega-3.
- 27:56 – U.S. average omega-3 index is a measly 4-4.5%! If you start there and add SmartPrime, you can expect your omega-3 index to rise from 4.5% to approximately 5.5-6%. That’s just with SmartPrime supplementation – and the effect is dose-dependent.
- 27:39 – One of the SmartPrime trial subjects saw a whopping 2.5% increase in their omega-3 index, which pushed them from 5% to almost 8%.
- 29:05 – Brandon talks about some of the potential uses for SmartPrime. One likely application is to combine SmartPrime with an omega-3 supplement in the same smartgel capsules, the delivery system that’s most commonly used for fish oil. Because SmartPrime is flavor neutral, it could be combined with a wide variety of products – like gummies. The bottom line is that you could use SmartPrime with pretty much any delivery system.
30:50 – How exactly does SmartPrime work?
One way SmartPrime changes PUFA metabolism is by using methylsulfonylmethane (MSM – normally used as a joint supplement) as both a methyl donor and a sulfur donor. Having a big supply of methyl groups is crucial for a huge range of metabolic processes in the human body.
Additionally, the lignans found in sesame seeds (such as sesamin and sesamolin) interact with certain receptors and transcription factors inside the cell to alter epigenetic expression. One example of this is SmartPrime’s ability to turn on the gene for the delta-5 desaturase (D5D) and elongase enzymes that play a central role in the “omega-6 and omega-3 metabolic machinery” that produces long-chain omega-3 PUFA end products from precursors.
- 34:47 – OK, so SmartPrime helps us make omega-3 fatty acids from dietary precursors. What about omega-6? Will taking SmartPrime flood my system with even more of the inflammatory arachidonic acid end product if I eat a bunch of seed oil-rich processed food?
- The answer is no: the specific lignans used in SmartPrime interact with the active site, the pocket that the aforementioned enzymes contain, to preferentially favor omega-3 precursors over omega-6 precursors! This means more long-chain omega-3 and fewer long-chain omega-6 fatty acids!
36:55 – Mike mentions a study showing that at the population level, the average American’s fat stores contain more linoleic acid than past generations’ did. In fact, a “catastrophic amount”. If a modern American loses weight today, they will in the process have to flood their bloodstream with all of that stored linoleic acid. Given that linoleic acid is a precursor to arachidonic acid, will SmartPrime protect us from excess arachidonic acid production during weight loss?
- 37:59 – Dr. Lopez: “I would definitely see a diet application” (i.e., optimizing fat metabolism in people who are trying to lose weight by protecting them against their own stored linoleic acid)
- 38:32 – The sesamin component of SmartPrime helps to optimize liver function by making cells better at oxidizing (burning) fatty acids and decreasing triglyceride levels while you’re getting leaner.
- 40:15 – SmartPrime also helps to improve insulin resistance. Recall the earlier mention of LPC 18:2 — this phospholipid is actually a kind of linoleic acid that has recently been established as a reliable biomarker for diabetes risk.[7-10] The more LPC 18:2 you have, the lower your risk of type II diabetes – and SmartPrime raises your levels of LPC 18:2!
- 41:27 – The composition of fats in your diet is crucial for optimal health: every gram of fat you eat will eventually become incorporated into membranes in every cell in your body. Arguably, fat is the most important macronutrient to pay attention to so far as food quality and source is concerned.
- 43:00 – Mention of the Baltimore Longevity Study.[16,17] While the study isn’t explored in depth here, it seems that SmartPrime-OM’s endpoint effects (such as increasing LPC 18:2) are supported by the associations found in this study.
- 43:44 – LPC 18:2 is huge for mitochondrial health. The cardiolipin compound that occurs in high concentrations within our mitochondria, a type of sphingolipid, is crucial for the proper functioning of the electron transport chain in every mitochondrion in every cell in our bodies. A compromised cardiolipin status means inefficient mitochondria and impaired production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the basic unit of cellular energy. LPC 18:2 is an integral component of cardiolipin, so if you want good mitochondrial function, you should be doing everything you can to raise your LPC 18:2 levels.
- 44:28 – Just like we use packaging and labeling to indicate where our mail is supposed to go, the body uses these proteins to “package” molecules like DHA. As it turns out, LPC is the “packaging” that moves DHA into the brain.
- 49:20 – SmartPrime doesn’t work acutely: you need to take it for a while before the nutrigenetic changes will take effect.
- 49:50 – However, the anti-inflammatory benefits of SmartPrime can be seen in as little as 3 to 7 days.
50:54 – Will the anti-inflammatory properties of SmartPrime via downregulation of arachidonic acid negatively affect muscle hypertrophy? Not really. SmartPrime isn’t going to completely prevent your body from making arachidonic acid – there should still be enough arachidonic acid left for the purposes of hypertrophy signaling, especially considering what the modern American’s baseline level of arachidonic acid is.
- 53:27 – SmartPrime may actually support the anabolic response by downregulating some catabolic mechanisms. In fact, high-dose EPA combined with SmartPrime would probably increase muscle protein synthesis.
- 55:12 – Are any common lifestyle choices interfering with the optimal “packaging” of DHA for transport across the brain-blood barrier?
- 56:03 – Based on available data, the specific form of EPA/DHA doesn’t seem to matter. Whether triglycerides, ethyl esters, or phospholipids, or free fatty acids, any form of quality omega-3 is going to over time (i.e. 8-12 weeks) help normalize your omega-3 levels.[20,21]
- 57:25 – A description of how EPA/DHA supplements are metabolized. They get absorbed mostly into the lymphatic system, as opposed to going to the liver for “first pass metabolism” as most supplements do. In fact, all long-chain fats (above 12 carbons) get absorbed through the lymphatic system, after which they’re dumped into the thoracic duct and circulate throughout the body before passing through the liver. By the time your omega-3 long chain fatty acids reach the liver, they must have been incorporated into a lipoprotein package for them to be delivered to tissues.
- 59:12 – Types of phospholipid packaging for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
- 1:00:05 – In order to reap the most benefits from omega-3 supplementation, your body needs to get omega-3 fatty acids into the phosphatidylcholine (PC) packaging.[23,24] People and animals with compromised methylation status will be unable to package their omega-3s in PC.[25,26]
- 1:00:45 – The MSM in SmartPrime is a potent methyl donor and helps ensure that supplemented omega-3s ultimately get “packed” in PC.
- 1:01:00 – Surprisingly, MSM proved to be the best methyl donor of all the ones Nutrashure tested (B-vitamins were also considered, but were outperformed by MSM – see next section on B-vitamins).
1:01:30 – Discussion of the VITACOG study. In this study, methylated forms of B vitamins were found to actually increase brain volume in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. Many articles published from this study show that these methylated B-vitamins ultimately helped slow cognitive decline.[24,28-31]
Dr. Lopez believes the result of this study can be explained by the fact that these methylated vitamins, in acting as methyl donors, were actually able to help the body move EPA/DHA into the brain by facilitating its “packaging” in phosphatidylcholine.
- 1:04:15 – If a consumer wants to take SmartPrime now, Ghost Fish Oil is now out with the novel ingredient inside! (This section was updated July 27, 2022)
- 1:04:50 – If a consumer specifically wants to take a stand-alone SmartPrime product (i.e., one that isn’t combined with omega-3 in the same product), what should he or she buy?
- 1:05:50 – The independent benefit of SmartPrime supplementation (SmartPrime alone, without a combined omega-3) has been established.
- 1:06:10 – What ingredients does SmartPrime best combine with?
- 1:07:00 – SmartPrime can actually be taken on an empty stomach: does not necessarily need to be consumed with food. In fact, taking SmartPrime before a meal might be better than taking it with a meal.
- 1:08:00 – Based on what we know about the circadian rhythm and how it affects metabolism, taking SmartPrime in the evening (e.g. before dinner) is probably optimal.
- 1:10:00 – The dosing of lignans that you’ll find in SmartPrime is much higher than pretty much any other product on the market, and is consistent with the dose sizes that have been used in clinical studies demonstrating beneficial effects of lignan supplementation.
- 1:11:00 – The lignan sesamin that’s present in SmartPrime should also help stabilize fish oil, and prevent it from oxidizing[32,33] and going rancid.
Omega-3s become interesting again.
This was quite an intense conversation, and we will have more articles coming out when the patents and research studies on SmartPrime are published. Additionally, we’ll cover the new supplement formulas that come out using SmartPrime.
To stay abreast of the information, we suggest signing up for our Nutrashure news alerts, which can be done below:
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Dr. Lopez’s History and Background
For those looking for more details on Dr. Lopez’s history, the timestamps are below:
- 1:37 – Dr. Lopez discusses his professional and personal background. His “first love” as a physician-scientist was sports nutrition, but he transitioned into more intensely-focused biochemistry and medicine late in his undergraduate career due to his father’s health problems.
2:08 – In the 90s, Dr. Lopez saw a big divide between the world of mainstream medical research and the world of nutrition or “applied nutrition.” There wasn’t nearly enough cross-talk between the two, and both the evidentiary and technological basis for nutritional supplementation are now much larger than they were in the 90s.
- 2:54 – Dr. Lopez did his medical training, residency and fellowship at Northwestern University in Chicago. He also obtained a Master’s degree in Nutritional Biochemistry from the same institution. While studying medicine, he was already doing some consulting in the supplement industry – one of his first consulting gigs was ghostwriting for some supplement brands, which included Nordic Naturals, manufacturer of premier pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplements.
- 3:44 – While working for Nordic Naturals, Dr. Lopez became interested in applying advances in the supplement industry to his work as a clinical researcher. For instance, in 2004 and 2005 he oversaw a study that used creatine monohydrate as a therapy for chronic stroke patients. It was so successful that many Chicago-area hospitals began using creatine as part of their standard treatment for brain and spine injuries. One of the first studies to demonstrate that a so-called “bodybuilding supplement” could play a role in clinical medicine.
- 4:53 – After Chicago, Dr. Lopez moved to New Jersey, where he practiced spinal and sports medicine on the cutting edge of regenerative medicine (circa 2008). This practice was characterized by its interdisciplinary approach, which included nutritional supplementation regimens and strength and conditioning in addition to standard medical procedures. Some of the supplements used in this practice included vitamins D and K2, collagen, and fish oil – “nothing revolutionary” by today’s standards, but really innovative back then.
- 6:54 – After leaving his private practice, Dr. Lopez went “full bore” on his work in the nutritional industry. This began with his clinical research at the Center for Applied Health Sciences, conducted in partnership with Dr. Tim Ziegenfuss, PhD.
- 7:24 – Eventually, Drs. Lopez and Ziegenfuss co-founded Supplement Safety Solutions, which focused on regulatory compliance and adverse event reporting within the supplement industry.
- 7:56 – Supplement Safety Solutions grew into an incubator for new product ideas, and they have been “living the dream” ever since, developing ideas for new supplement ingredients.