Algae: our original omega-3 source

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By Milthon Lujan

Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in our diets in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and for normal vision and brain functions. We eat (oily) fish products or use pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements based on fish oil for this purpose. But fish cannot produce omega-3 by itself, but obtain them from algae.

PUFAs are poly unsaturated fatty acids or omega-3 fatty acids. These PUFAs, in particular DHA and EPA, play an important role in our health. EPA and DHA are found in fish and shellfish. High levels can be found in fatty fish, such as anchovy, mackerel, herring and salmon. However fish cannot make their own DHA and EPA, they obtain them from algae. Wageningen University & Research works together with other research institutes and companies to in the EU project PUFAChain, to devolope a robust scientific and technological basis for the industrial development of high-value products from microalgae.

Increasing demand for fish products
DHA/EPA health claim approvals, improvement in standard of living and increasing health awareness made the DHA/EPA world market grow significantly. The same applies to the global fish production and consumption. At present, more than half of the fish consumption is from farmed fish instead of captured, but the fish feed for several farmed fish species also consists of fish meal and oil.

Algae as omega-3 source
To meet this growing demand and to prevent overfishing and to avoid dependence on fluctuating catches by El Niño, other sources of omega-3 than fish or fish oil should be sought. In baby food for example DHA from algae is used. Not only for the DHA/EPA consumer market, but also for the fish feed market, for example for salmon farming, algae could be an interesting option. Reduction of production costs for DHA/EPA rich algae oil is needed to be able to compete with fish oil in these price-sensitive markets.

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About the PUFAChain project
PUFAChain is developing a robust scientific and technological basis for the industrial development of high-value products from microalgae. The main targeted application is the use of high purified omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) for nutrition and pharmaceutical products. Science and technologies are integrated in a consortium of 6 companies and 3 research institutes. Wageningen University & Research is performing the socio-economic and SWOT analysis. The PURAChain project lasts from 2014 to 2017 and is funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Program.

ing. J (Joanneke) Spruijt
Organisation: Wageningen Plant Research
Subdivision: Akkerbouw, Groene Ruimte en Vollegrondsgroenten
Post address: PO Box 430
Telephone number: +31320291357

Source: Wageningen University & Research

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