Women In Wellness: Corinna Bellizzi Of Örlö Nutrition On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Salad dressings are mostly omega-6. Even those that are labeled to have olive oil are often combined with soybean oil, which contains high levels of omega-6. Make your salad dressing at home to avoid this, or select salad dressings that are made with olive oil exclusively. Olive oil is high in oleic acid, an omega-9 that is both healthy, and which doesn’t upset your omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
As a part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Corinna Bellizzi.
Corinna Bellizzi, MBA is a natural products industry executive and omega-3 expert who pioneered the growth of Nordic Naturals from less than $1 million to over $100 million in annual sales. Given her concern for the future health of people and the planet, she shifted her focus from fish-sourced omegas to algae in 2016. An activist at heart, she launched her podcast, Care More Be Better, in 2021 to cover social and ecological issues that affect us all. Today she leads Örlö Nutrition, a new brand that features the world’s first carbon-negative omega-3s. She hosts a new podcast, Nutrition Without Compromise, to support that effort where she covers health topics without compromising your ethics, or the health of our home planet.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I was born and raised in southern Oregon to hippie parents and spent my first few years on what most would call a commune. We were closely connected to our food, growing much of the produce, fruit and eggs that we would consume. I even recall bringing a goat into the pantry to milk it so I would have milk for my cereal. After graduating college with a degree in Anthropology, it was no small wonder that I went back to my roots in the natural foods industry. I fell in love with nutrition, and with the power of omega-3s, focusing the majority of my career learning about their nutritional power. As someone who is passionate about education and about my personal impact on people and the planet, I launched my first podcast while in graduate school in 2021. As much as I love nutrition, I also fell in love with podcasting. As they say, if you love to write, blog. If you love to talk, podcast. Care More Be Better, my personal podcast focusing on social impact, sustainability, and regeneration now ranks in the top 2.5% of all podcasts globally. I launched Nutrition Without Compromise to marry my two loves while educating the world about sustainable nutrition and omega-3. It’s icing on the cake that I get to do this professionally.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
On a business trip, a coworker asked for help getting their bag down from the overhead compartment. They said, “It’s heavy, It’s a bomb.” This was less than a year after September 11, 2001, so the statement had everyone near me on high alert. I immediately said, “She doesn’t know what she’s implying. She just means it’s heavy.” I learned three important things in this single moment, while in a mild state of panic..
1. Socio-emotional intelligence, the ability to read a room or situation, and the effect it’s having on the people around you, is really important. My co-worker did not understand the effect her words had on those around her because she lacked perspective and emotional intelligence. She discounted the looks they exchanged and lacked self-awareness.
2. Language and word-use is really important. If you’re joking it should be clear from a situation, and if you’re not, a simile or metaphor can get you into more trouble than it’s worth.
3. It’s important to stand up and say something when you can. If I had not done so in this particular situation, we could have landed in a very uncomfortable situation, and lost a lot of time, in a homeland security interrogation.
I may trend towards seriousness and directness in my communication, but it has never gotten me into more trouble than I could handle.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My main mistake, in hindsight, is painfully simple. I emulated the leaders I was surrounded by, and it really didn’t work out for me. The first was a charismatic woman and a fashion model in her prior career (neither of which I am). The second was a shrewd businessperson who was extremely sharp, and also lacked social grace. I had to learn to step into myself authentically and emulate those whose leadership I respected and admired, and who I could also authentically embody. You see, just because someone who leads is successful in rank, title, and compensation, doesn’t mean their way is the best path forward for you. Furthermore, you might emulate less desirable behavior if you aren’t careful. That charismatic leader might be a visionary, and they also might lack social intelligence. They might even tell their seatmates on a plane that their bag is a bomb.
I also saw this lesson play out when one of my subordinates decided to try and match my presentation style in making a pitch to the CEO of a prior employer. They thought that if they presented a well-researched pitch and made a case for the (perhaps controversial) market effort they wanted to undertake, they would get a yes. What they missed was the emotion. In working so hard to “do it like I did” they missed the heart of the pitch — the why. I think this is a universal truth in leadership. You must be authentic to be believed. If people don’t believe you, they won’t buy what you’re selling / marketing / saying.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I have spent the better part of my career in the omega-3 nutrition space because I believe that correcting the global omega-3 deficiency is something that can change the health of all people, and even our society, for the better. However, if every person consumed an omega-3 supplement or ate fish 2–3 times per week, there wouldn’t be enough fish in the sea. So I have been aiming to solve that problem since I first understood that reality.
I find myself reflecting on this woman I met in a Whole Foods in southern California years ago. I was waiting to meet with the department head, and give a staff training on omega-3s, when a woman approached me asking if I could help her. She was only 26 years old, and her health was deteriorating. She had gone vegan and it wasn’t physically working very well for her. Her skin was a little too sallow and she had started losing her hair. It’s really hard for some people to go vegan. They won’t get enough of the right nutrients, enough protein, and even enough omega-3. Back then, there weren’t great vegan options for omega-3 — and thankfully that has changed now. If we had been able to produce vegan omega-3s with EPA and DHA in the polar lipid form back in 2004 when I met her — it could really have helped her. It’s moments like that that keep me engaged and working to both educate people on the benefits of omega-3 but also not relenting on quality, efficacy, affordability, and sustainability.
While we’ve only been on the market a short time, I’m already hearing from Örlö customers who are seeing positive changes they didn’t see with fish oils. One such person shared that they had dry eyes and that no omega-3 had ever helped, until ours. The reason it works better is simple. Because it’s in the polar lipid form, it gets into the tissue much more quickly — and this meant that they saw results on day 3 or 4! While a fish oil supplement might have worked with time, it wouldn’t deliver results as rapidly, and when that happens, people stop taking their supplements. You can’t get a benefit from a nutrient you won’t take.
Beyond my worklife in the omega-3 space, I am committed to creating a movement that will support regenerative, circular, and sustainable movements for years to come. I’ve worked to create a podcast around my personal passions of social impact and sustainability, and I’m working on the sidelines to create communities of professionals that have a similar vision of solving global challenges. I’m connecting with other “bioneers” and may even be part of a panel of algae-related entrepreneurs that I’m working to put together for the Bioneers conference in April 2023. So, what started with Omega-3s, a passion for nutrition, and a do-gooder attitude, is already growing into something more meaningful, life supporting, and soul supporting. If we can harness the potential of algae to feed animals and humans, sequester carbon, and solve ecological problems, we can create a health-sustaining future for all.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
We’ve all heard about the many benefits of omega-3s, but how do they help you live a longer, healthier, and happier life? Corinna Bellizzi shares 5 ways that these essential fats will make you happier, healthier, and longer-lived so you can do more of what you love with those you love.
Consume More Omega-3 EPA and DHA to Support A Happier Life:
Getting enough omega-3s EPA and DHA is positively associated with maintaining a healthy mood and healthy body. The standard American diet (SAD) is far too high in omega-6s from seed oils, and animal fats, and far too low in omega-3s. Combine this fact with the obvious stress of our daily lives and other environmental challenges, and it’s no wonder that our mood suffers. Reducing consumption of grains and high omega-6 seed oils, like corn oil, safflower oil or soybean oil, while increasing your consumption of omega-3s helps your body return to balance. Cellular signaling improves. Energy levels improve. And your mood also improves. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is anywhere from 3:1 to 1:1, and evidence suggests that we evolved with a diet that is closer to 1:1. The SAD (standard American diet, mentioned earlier) is closer to 16:1 which poses obvious problems. I choose algae over fish because that’s how the fish get their EPA and DHA in the first place and doing so is more sustainable. [source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12442909/]
Consume More Omega-3 EPA and DHA For A Healthier Brain and Eyes:
Did you know that half of the fat in your brain and eyes is made of DHA? Ensuring that you get enough DHA each day helps to ensure you maintain a healthy brain and eyes. The positive impact of omega-3s in combination with lutein and zeaxanthin was well documented in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS 2). Consuming enough of these nutrients can provide long-term nutrition support for healthy vision.
To get more omega-3 in your diet, consume fish that are low on the food chain (sardines and anchovies) or consider an algae-sourced omega-3 supplement. To get more lutein and zeaxanthin in your diet, consume more yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables. Let’s just say there’s a reason that carrots, high in carotenoids, are associated with healthy eyes and healthy vision.
DHA is also especially important for pregnant and nursing women to ensure they get enough DHA each and every day. Women who are trying to become pregnant, are pregnant, postpartum or nursing should get at least 300 mg of DHA each day. Taking an omega-3 in the polar lipid form ensures the absorption is as much as 3x that of your standard fish or algae oil. Örlö Nutrition’s Prenatal DHA boasts 335mg of DHA in the polar lipid form for maximum benefit. The polar lipid form ensures that the omega-3s make their way into your tissue easily, whether or not you consume the omegas on an empty stomach. This form of fat also won’t “repeat” or burp back on you, which is especially important for women during their first and last trimesters when their systems can be more sensitive.
Omega-3s EPA and DHA Help Your Body Regenerate (you know, healthy aging):
Research on EPA and DHA suggests that getting enough of these essential fatty acids can help your body regenerate. The production of resolvins and protectins from EPA and DHA can keep you healthier, longer. Resolvins help resolve inflammation for a return to homeostasis and protectins help protect your cells from DNA damage. This means they support your body’s natural regenerative process so you can regenerate healthy cells. Since these powerful omegas are used in every cell in your body, ensuring you replenish your stores each and every day is ideal.
Reduce Sensitivity to Exercise-Induced Pain
From reducing the pain response in those with rheumatoid arthritis, to generalized joint comfort, omega-3s EPA and DHA positively support general wellness. For those that want to remain active and do more of what they love with those they love, now and well into their golden years, omega-3s may even help you stay pain-free after strenuous exercise. Personally, I began taking omega-3s in my early 20s. I had learned that they could improve my athletic performance, and as a competition mountain-biker in the late 1990s, that was all that mattered to me. The science continues to prove the many positive effects of omega-3s as supportive measures for reducing recovery time from exercise, improving joint comfort, and ultimately, supporting a healthy, active lifestyle. [source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3918552/]
Omega-3s are positively associated with living longer, and healthier
You may have heard of “blue cities”, or areas where people live longer than in other places, but getting to the root cause of what makes this longer life possible is a bit more challenging. Blue cities tend to have a few things in common. They tend to be near the coast, boast slower living, lower related stress levels, healthy whole-food diets, and you guessed it, more omega-3s. A recent study out of Spain, in conjunction with the Fatty Acid Research Institute in Sioux Falls, SD tracked 2,240 participants over 11 years and analyzed the omega-3 levels in their blood. They separated the participants into 4 groups. People with a higher level of omega-3 who did not smoke, those who had higher levels and also smoked, non-smokers who had low omega-3 and low omega-3 non-smokers. What they found was simple. Those with higher levels of omega-3 and who did not smoke lived longest, with a life expectancy of about 5 years longer. Furthermore, smokers who had high levels of omega-3 had roughly equal longevity to nonsmokers with low levels of omega-3. [source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/omega-3-levels-in-the-blood-may-boost-lifespan#Future-studies]
For those interested in having their blood levels of omega-3 checked to see how you’re doing, you can procure a basic Omega-3 Index test from OmegaQuant.com for roughly $50.00. They return results which share how your blood levels compare to western countries, and also to seafaring nations like Japan. This simple tool can help you divine whether you need to up your omega-3 consumption. If you have just started taking omega-3s it’s best to keep taking them daily for 3 months before taking the test, as there is a lag time in building up your omega-3 levels. If you’re taking an omega-3 in the polar lipid form, you may notice results more rapidly. For more information on fatty acid forms, I encourage you to read this blog that I wrote on the topic.
I think the message is clear. Making sure you consume enough omega-3s each day is critical to long-term health. If you’re not consuming fatty fish 2–3 times a week, you should really consider supplementing with a high quality omega-3. You can cut out the middle fish and go straight to the algae source, and choose a polar lipid form for better absorption. Taking this simple step will help you lead the life you want.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Food insecurity is a real problem, with one in seven people in the United States being food insecure right now. As a country of immense wealth, I personally find this statistic to be unacceptable, and it’s my belief that by shifting our patterns to support local and regenerative businesses, that we will move beyond the present reality and raise everyone up. I want to help create a movement towards localized, sustainable, and regenerative nutrition. If we can get more of our foods locally, while also focusing on sustainable solutions like algae-based omegas instead of fish oil, we will be doing the world more good. With Örlö Nutrition we seek to do our part. Every one month supply of algae omegas is equivalent to 110 fish not taken from our oceans, and 1.1kg of CO2 equivalent is also saved.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I spent almost a decade working in the omega-3 space before I understood a few key things. So, specific to working in the omega-3 space, I wish I had known that:
- Fish get their EPA and DHA from the algae they eat. If I had known this simple fact, I would undoubtedly have pushed harder for the companies I worked with to produce vegan alternatives. I assumed that the algae only produced alpha linolenic acid, like terrestrial plants. While these are essential omega-3s, your body has to work pretty hard to turn them into EPA and DHA. There are so many supplements to choose from, and sourcing a great one can be tough. I would not suggest going to amazon first to do your research. Look for companies with a direct connection to the source, with guaranteed quality, and that are documented to be sustainable.
- Terrestrial plant-sourced omega-3s from flax oil or walnuts aren’t the same as EPA and DHA. You have to consume roughly 16 times the ALA to get the EPA and DHA you need. Even then, you are relying on activated enzymes in your system to make the ALA into these important fats. It’s a long journey, and if you don’t already have great nutrition, the process can be stalled.
- Partially hydrogenated fats and fully hydrogenated fats are trans fats. Trans fats are only 1 chemical constituent different from plastics. You should avoid eating them because they gum up your system. While these fats are edible, they are not food.
- Virtually all oils in baked goods are omega-6s or hydrogenated fats. If you consume a lot of baked goods and fried foods, you are getting far too much omega-6 in your diet. You are likely also consuming trans fats.
- Salad dressings are mostly omega-6. Even those that are labeled to have olive oil are often combined with soybean oil, which contains high levels of omega-6. Make your salad dressing at home to avoid this, or select salad dressings that are made with olive oil exclusively. Olive oil is high in oleic acid, an omega-9 that is both healthy, and which doesn’t upset your omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
The intersection of nutrition and sustainability is of critical importance, and it’s virtually impossible to tease these issues out from climate change. Ultimately, we need to build sustainable, regenerative, and circular systems that can support our global nutrition needs while also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Algae is an incredible tool to do this, and with Örlö Nutrition we are bringing this reality forward. Regenerative farming methods offer another solution, and this method includes responsible animal husbandry. Indeed, grazing animals offer both fertilization to plants and they help rebuild our soil. Regeneratively raised cattle can actually be part of the solution. We can feed them biochar to reduce their methane emissions by up to 90%, or even feed them seaweed and achieve similar results. We can use their manure as healthy fertilizer for our crops, and rebuild our soil, which will then be capable of drawing down more carbon, sustaining longer droughts, and producing more consistent crops. There is so much more I could say on this topic, but the intersection of nutrition and climate is where I live and breathe these days. I cover this intersection deeply in my new podcast, Nutrition Without Compromise. The purpose of that show is to share great nutrition information without compromising your ethics or the health of planet earth. I also host my flagship podcast, Care More Be Better, focused on topics of social impact, sustainability, and regeneration. If you’re interested in exploring these topics more deeply, I hope you’ll check them out, and subscribe on your favorite listening platform.
What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?
Orlo’s Algae-Based Nutrition: https://orlonutrition.com
Nutrition Without Compromise Podcast: https://orlonutrition.com/pages/podcast
Social media: @orlonutrition, @corinnabellizzi
Care More Be Better Podcast: https://caremorebebetter.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.