In a new scientific literature review titled “Alternative sources of bioactive omega-3 fatty acids: what are the options?” and published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care (CO-CN), UK lipid researcher Dr Ella Baker addresses widely recognised concerns on the sustainability of marine omega-3 sources.
The driving premise behind this new peer-reviewed article is that traditional sources of VLC-PUFA — very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA — are no longer sustainable.
This is true for fish oil-derived supplements, highly concentrated pharmaceuticals and enteral/parenteral emulsions used in medical nutrition and for aquaculture feeds.
Dr Baker cites that 1.25 million metric tons of fish oil was produced in 2022 with a corresponding EPA/DHA production of 160,000 metric tons. About half of global fish oil production came from wild-harvested or farmed whole fish, the other half coming from fish by-products.
Yet the recent Peruvian fishery closures and other omega-3 supply chain disruptions are causing the industry to make strategic shifts in sourcing.
As Dr Baker describes meeting total omega-3 EPA/DHA demand and satisfying recommended EPA/DHA intakes globally: “This demand may not be met because of insufficient fisheries catch owing to reductions in fish stocks from overfishing and climate change."
"Alternative sources of EPA and DHA to fish need to be seriously considered and their potential explored.”
Her article presents three alternative categories of direct omega-3 sources that do not involve wild-harvesting and processing oily forage fish from the oceans — typically anchovies, sardines, herring or menhaden.
Plant-based Ahiflower oil from Natures Crops, with the highest combined omega-3 SDA and GLA content, is featured in the article along with microalgae-derived EPA/DHA sources and genetically modified canola or camelina seed sources.
The algal and GMO terrestrially farmed sources of preformed EPA/DHA were recognised for their capacity to mimic many of the recognised health benefits of fish oil supplementation.
However, this is the first omega-3 metabolism literature review article recognising recent scientific publications describing Ahiflower oil’s differential effects and metabolic fate vs EPA/DHA sources. Among those cited include
- likely novel anti-inflammatory oxylipins derived from SDA (versus those from EPA/DHA alone)
- human evidence of dose-dependent increases in circulating SDA, ETA (C20:4n-3), and EPA—a wider array than occurs from EPA/DHA sources
- production of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in humans and mice — higher than when compared with soya or fish oil
- recognised beneficial effects on biomarkers of whole-body and hepatic glucose metabolism, immune cells, lipid mediators and intestinal microbiota.
Of the latter finding, in a 7-day intervention using total parenteral nutrition (TPN) emulsions in mice, Dr Baker wrote: “Remarkably, the effects of the Ahiflower oil containing lipid emulsion were greater than those of the fish oil emulsion.”
This included higher IL-10 and a higher IL-10/IL- 6 ratio in liver and muscle, greater hepatic insulin receptor 2 expression, higher percentages of liver helper T cells expressing interferon-gamma, and elimination of a microinvasive bacterium from the gut mucosa.
Taken as a whole, Dr Baker concluded: “SDA has qualitatively similar effects to EPA and combinations of EPA and DHA, but these are greater than the effects of ALA (at the same intake level)."
"Recent experimental studies with oil from a commercially grown crop that is rich in SDA, Ahiflower oil, have reported remarkable effects which might result from its high content of ALA, SDA and GLA.”
This review’s recognition of Ahiflower oil’s beneficial and different health-promoting effects stemming from its uniquely high levels of ALA, SDA, and GLA augments recently published findings that Ahiflower oil matches pure marine DHA in rates of replacing and deploying new DHA into liver, adipose, and brain tissues in mice, despite not raising circulating DHA levels.
Both these peer-reviewed articles point to Ahiflower oil’s capacity to efficiently form as much EPA and DHA as and when needed — naturally and dynamically — to support cell membranes and tissues.
In so doing, Ahiflower oil can indeed help overcome omega-3 deficiencies causing many negative health and epidemiological outcomes, yet from a regeneratively farmed, non-genetically modified, and wholly sustainable source.