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Algae oil vs fish oil: 5 reasons to switch for yourself and the planet

Published Jan 2, 2024 | Updated Feb 2, 2024
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Do you take fish oil ? What if there was an alternative which is still high in omega 3, well studied, contamination free and sustainable ? Algae oil is emerging as an equally beneficial, and often superior alternative to traditional fish oil. Here are 5 reasons you may want to swap fish oil for algae oil and get the very much-needed omega 3.

 Is fish oil good for you? Algae oil is better

Algae oil is considered a purer source of omega 3s than fish oil. Fish can accumulate heavy metals like mercury and other contaminants from the environment[1] Common fish oil side effects that can occur after oil contamination are nausea and rapid heartbeat. In contrast, algae oil is produced in controlled conditions, resulting in fewer impurities[2]. In fact, research shows algae oil has very low levels of contaminants compared to fish oil, which often contains concerning levels of pollutants like PCBs which are highly carcinogenic chemical compounds, formerly used in industrial and consumer products[3]. This makes algae oil a much safer choice. Additionally, the DHA found in algae oil is more concentrated than fish oil. A study found algae oil supplements had 2-3 times more DHA compared to popular fish oil brands[4]. This higher purity and concentration of omega-3s means you can get a bigger boost from algae oil.

Algae oil vs fish oil: benefits for your brain revealed

The high concentration of DHA in algae oil makes it an excellent choice for brain health. DHA makes up over 90% of the omega-3s in the brain and is critical for development and function[5]. Research shows algae oil can improve memory and relieve cognitive deficits[5]. Fish oil also benefits the brain, however, impacts DHA levels to a lesser extent compared to pure algae oil. For optimal brain boosting, experts recommend from 250 mg to 500 mg of DHA per day[6]. The purity of algae oil makes it easier to reach this target compared to fish oil. brain feed developed a sustainable and plant-based double-concentrated omega 3 that boasts an impressive 500 mg of DHA in one vegan capsule. Get 15% off your first purchase with code ‘NEW15’. 


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Algae: vegan fish oil alternative

A common misconception is that fish produce omega-3s and are the original source of these healthy fats. The truth is that fatty fish are rich in omega 3 because they get them by eating algae and other organisms lower on the food chain that also eat algae. Algae is the original source of DHA and EPA that ultimately makes its way into fish tissue. By taking algae oil rather than fish oil, you are getting DHA and EPA directly from the original source. Algae oil eliminates the middlemen, giving you higher-purity omega-3s.

Algae oil is more sustainable

Some organizations estimate overfishing has caused fish populations to drop by half since 1970[7]. While fish oil supplements are only one of the causes, they do add significantly to the demand for fish harvest. The cultivation of algae as a DHA source, on the other hand, offers an environmentally responsible solution to depleting fish stocks. Unlike fish that need to be caught from the wild, algae can be cultivated sustainably in controlled environments like bioreactors or open ponds on land. These cultivation methods require minimal land and water resources, making algae production far more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional fishing practices. Multiple scientific studies by researchers with extensive expertise in omega 3 have demonstrated that algae-derived omega 3 can be produced on a large scale without the risk of overexploitation of marine resources that is associated with fish oil production[1,2,3].

Algae oil is better for the environment

Production of algae oil also has a lesser climate impact compared to fish oil. Extracting oil from fish requires energy-intensive harvesting and processing. Fish farming, also known as aquaculture, is a significant contributor to environmental pollution and habitat degradation[11,12]. Algae, however, can be grown using non-potable water which is unsuitable for drinking. This allows algae oil production without competing for scarce freshwater resources. On-land algae production thrives as a promising sustainable practice. These remarkable organisms utilise sunlight and absorb carbon dioxide. Grown in controlled environments, algae rapidly multiply. This method requires less space and water than traditional methods, conserving resources.



If you want to switch to a plant-based alternative or if you’re new to the omega 3 world, algae oil is a smart option. Adding algae oil to your daily routine can help do your part for the planet while keeping your body and mind performing at their best. 

 

References

[1] Foran, J. A., Carpenter, D. O., Hamilton, M. C., Knuth, B. A., & Schwager, S. J. (2005). Risk-Based Consumption Advice for Farmed Atlantic and Wild Pacific Salmon Contaminated with Dioxins and Dioxin-like Compounds. Environmental Health Perspectives, 113(5), 552–556.

[2] Adarme-Vega, T. C., Lim, D. K. Y., Timmins, M., Vernen, F., Li, Y., & Schenk, P. M. (2012). Microalgal biofactories: a promising approach towards sustainable omega-3 fatty acid production. Microbial Cell Factories, 11(1), 96.

[3] Jacobs, M. N., Covaci, A., & Schepens, P. (2002). Investigation of Selected Persistent Organic Pollutants in Farmed Atlantic Salmon ( Salmo salar ), Salmon Aquaculture Feed, and Fish Oil Components of the Feed. Environmental Science & Technology, 36(13), 2797–2805. 

[4] Ryckebosch, E., Bruneel, C., Termote-Verhalle, R., Goiris, K., Muylaert, K., & Foubert, I. (2014). Nutritional evaluation of microalgae oils rich in omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids as an alternative for fish oil. Food Chemistry, 160, 393–400. 

[5] Dyall, S. C. (2015). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 7, 1–15. 

[6] EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2012). Scientific Opinion related to the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). EFSA Journal, 10(7):2815.

[7] Ocean Fish Numbers Cut in Half Since 1970 (2015). Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ocean-fish-numbers-cut-in-half-since-1970/#:~:text=The%20report%20said%20populations%20of,the%20decline%20was%2050%20percent.

[8] Adarme-Vega, T. C., Thomas-Hall, S. R., & Schenk, P. M. (2014). Towards sustainable sources for omega-3 fatty acids production. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 26, 14–18. 

[9] Diaz, C. J., Douglas, K. J., Kang, K., Kolarik, A. L., Malinovski, R., Torres-Tiji, Y., Molino, J. V., Badary, A., & Mayfield, S. P. (2023). Developing algae as a sustainable food source. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9, 1029841.

[10] Priyadarshani, I., Sahu, D., & Rath, B. (2012). Algae in Aquaculture. International Journal of Health Sciences and Research, 2(1), 108–114.

[11] Krüger, L., Casado-Coy, N., Valle, C., Ramos, M., Sánchez-Jerez, P., Gago, J., Carretero, O., Beltran-Sanahuja, A., & Sanz-Lazaro, C. (2020). Plastic debris accumulation in the seabed derived from coastal fish farming. Environmental Pollution, 257, 113336. 

[12] Kalantzi, I., Rico, A., Mylona, K., Pergantis, S. A., & Tsapakis, M. (2021). Fish farming, metals and antibiotics in the eastern Mediterranean Sea: Is there a threat to sediment wildlife? Science of The Total Environment, 764, 142843. 

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