For a very long-time, fish were believed to be the main source of omega-3 fatty acids, but that’s about to change. What comes to your mind when you hear the word algae? Of course, the image that pops in your head immediately is the green film that is always found in ponds, rivers, and lakes. But what most of you don’t know about algae is that it is a source of a unique oil that happens to be a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are necessary for the body to perform several functions. Due to this property, algae are now cultivated mostly in laboratories where the oil can be extracted. The oil extracted from algae is known as algal oil.
This oil is a good substitute for fish oil, especially for the vegan community and individuals with fish allergies, since it’s completely plant based. You can also increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in algae by manipulating their exposure to temperature, oxygen, glucose, sodium, and UV light. In this article, you are going to learn what algal oil is, its benefits, and how it compares to fish oil.
What Is Algal Oil?
Algal-oil is a healthy algae-derived product that is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. This oil is a rich source of two known omega-3 fatty acids. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Still, the most common are EPA and DHA since once ALA is introduced into the body, it is converted into DHA and EPA.
Fish usually obtain EPA and DHA from feeding on algae, and since not all humans can consume fish, scientists had to figure out a substitute for fish oil, hence algae oil. Algae oil is defined as kosher, organic, and vegetarian; thus, it has become a key ingredient in most processed foods. Algal-oil also contains an important fatty acid known as omega-9 fatty acids.
Once extracted, the oils can be used in several ways, such as supplements and enriching fish, animal, and poultry feeds. Remember, just as fish supplements, the supplements made of algae oil tend to vary in the amount and type of omega -3 acid they contain.
Algae oil can also be used as a substitute for cooking oil, but it won’t contain any omega-3s since they tend to be unstable when exposed to heat. Algae oil possesses a neutral flavor compared to the fishy aftertaste of fish oils, and it has a high smoking point making it ideal for high-heat roasting and sauteing.
For algal oil supplements dosage, you must consult your doctor before taking it, especially if you are a vegetarian or allergic to fish since your body is always low in DHA and EPA. Algae oil can be found in capsule or liquid form.
Remember to store algae oil products in a cool, dry place and refrigerate liquid supplements since the unsaturated fats tend to oxidize after a while. When the supplements or products start producing an unpleasant smell or any smell, you are advised to dispose of them.
Benefits Of Algal-Oil
As you’ve already learnt about algae oil, it contains two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and omega-9 fatty acids; together, they offer the body numerous health benefits. The Algal oil benefits include:
The oil is known to reduce inflammation by reducing the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. This is due to the presence of omega-3s. By reducing inflammation, algae oil acts as a treatment for osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the joint cartilage wears down, resulting in pain and inflammation; this condition mostly targets the knees, hips, hands, and spine. Also, algae oil helps with inflammatory bowel diseases related to health conditions like leaky gut syndrome, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
The intake of omega-3 is vital in improving human memory. At the same time, it also reduces the risks of vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder that causes progressive memory loss, dementia and can lead to death.
It is also believed that Algal oil benefits patients with Alzheimer as the oil improves their quality of life. When fed to animals, the supplements help reduce the amount of neuronal loss, especially in female animals.
Boosts Eye Health
The presence of omega-3 helps reduce the symptoms of eye fatigue and dry eyes by decreasing the rate by which your tears evaporate. If you wear contacts, the EPA and DHA in algae oil help decrease eye irritation.
The fatty acids also help reduce the risks of age-related macular degeneration, a condition associated with blurry vision and vision loss due to damage to the center of the eye or macula.
Algae oil helps improve the symptoms of people suffering from depression. This is because people suffering from depression tend to have low levels of EPA and DHA.
Improves Heart Health
These oils help regulate heartbeats, reduce LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and inflammation, and decrease the risks of strokes, heart attacks, and blood clot formation.
The DHA found in algae oils is vital during pregnancy since it is essential for the fetus’s brain development.
Other benefits include improved quality of sleep and the stimulation of melatonin.
Algal-Oil Vs. Fish Oil
Despite fish being considered as sources of omega-3, you’ve learnt that all of their omega-3 results from them feeding on algae. Some studies have even stated that algae oil supplements are equally nutritious and filled with omega 3, just as cooked fish.
The composition of fatty acids in algae varies depending on the environmental factors, seasonal changes, growth stage, and the species; just as with fish, it depends on their fat stores and diet.
Due to the neutral flavor of algae oils, there are low risks of digestion problems compared to fish oils which tend to have a fishy aftertaste.
Algae oils are more sustainable than fish oils since certain species of algae grow faster, while fish oils depend on the number of fish caught, which can result in overfishing.
The toxin levels of fish oils are higher than algae oils since algae grown for oil extraction are grown under controlled environments and are usually purified.
It is evident that algae oils have the same omega-3 fatty acids like fish oils and are plant-based, so if you happen to be a vegetarian or looking for an alternative omega-3 source, then algae oils are what you are looking for. Remember, by using algae oils, you are also helping the fight against overfishing.