Dr Nils Hoem (NH), Aker BioMarine’s Chief Scientist, talks to Dr Kevin Robinson (KSR) about the power and potential of marine phospholipids for cognitive health and more
In response to a question about recent developments in the world of brain health, Nils tells me that it’s “an exciting time for the cognitive wellness category” and that there’s a lot happening in terms of new product development and science.
“We are seeing that cognitive function is becoming more of a mainstream market trend, with new products being launched that target healthy ageing, improved memory, mood, stress, focus and more.”
“People around the world are living longer,” he continues, “which means that healthy ageing will continue to be more relevant … and brain health is a big part of that conversation."
"Ageing is the most significant risk factor for many ailments, including dementia, Parkinson’s, cardiovascular disease and cancer. As a society at large, age-related healthcare costs are expected to increase massively during the next few years."
"Therefore, a growing body of science is helping us to better understand how we can impact and improve the life quality of an ageing population.”
NH: Omega-3 fatty acids have long been recognised as food for the brain and their benefits are supported by numerous published scientific studies. There are various omega-3 sources and it’s important to understand the differences.
Fish oil alone can barely accommodate the world’s total requirement for omega-3s; as such, the emphasis has shifted. Making multiple — and sustainable — sources of omega-3 available for customers and consumers alike is now an imperative.
As a multinutrient with active omega-3s, krill oil phospholipids work at the cellular level. In fact, our cell membranes are made up of phospholipids, so when you ingest a krill supplement, the body recognises it.
Phospholipids help to optimise the transport, delivery and integration of omega-3s (such as EPA and DHA) and choline directly into our cells and organs such as the brain. Choline works to prevent the formation of plaque in the brain — a key characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
NH: For the past 7 years, we have been studying lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC). This ingredient is extremely effective when it comes to crossing the blood-brain barrier, delivering health benefits directly to the brain and helping to regulate inflammatory processes at a cellular level.
The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA play essential roles throughout the human lifespan by regulating inflammatory processes and supporting cells and organs such as the brain.
Yet, EPA and DHA must be transported across the blood-brain barrier to have any significant effect. We see that LPC is crucial to enabling this.
The primary vehicle that mediates the passage of EPA and DHA into the brain is something called the MFSD2A transporter (also called lysolipid transporter A), which only recognises these fatty acids when they are bound to LPC.
NH: To date, there is no commercially available LPC product, which is why we are excited about the potential of our newest ingredient: LYSOVETA. It offers targeted delivery of LPC-bound omega-3s to the brain.
Currently, we’re working with well-known experts to push LYSOVETA in the right direction and establish the strategic partnerships that will bring this innovative brain health ingredient to consumers across the globe.
LYSOVETA recently received new dietary ingredient (NDI) status, marking a big step for commercialisation opportunities in the US. During the next year, we will start human clinical trials that will focus on cognitive function and other brain health related areas with our partners and institutions around the world.
NH: Ageing is also a major focus for us; recent peer-reviewed publications demonstrate Superba Krill oil’s effect on healthy ageing in areas including neuron and cellular health, muscle function and mobility, and joint health.
A recent study in Aging concluded that krill oil promotes a longer life expectancy by counteracting many of the cellular and biological processes that drive ageing in cells and tissues.1
Furthermore, Superba Krill oil was used in two additional studies that examined krill oil’s effects in elderly populations. Published in Clinical Nutrition, scientists concluded that krill oil significantly increases muscle function and size in healthy older adults.2
Another breakthrough study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, concluded that krill oil improves knee pain, stiffness and physical function in adults 40–65 years old with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis.3
NH: Interestingly, the liver is connected to the heart in many ways. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the number one global killer and one of the main contributors is the build-up of fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood, which clog up the arteries.
The arteries are very susceptible to blockages, which places undue strain on the heart.
The liver plays key roles in terms of cleaning the blood and helping to maintain appropriate levels of nutrients within it (including fat); therefore, optimal liver health is essential to having a fully functional blood system and minimising stress on the heart.
Choline is important in this regard; it helps to create the vesicles that transport fat in the blood and keep the heart safe. To sum it all up, beyond the well-recognised benefits of omega-3s for heart health, krill oil also helps to maintain the well-being of the liver.
NH: Very much so. The omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil have important modulating effects on inflammatory signalling systems. After the immune system reacts to a lesion or an invading micro-organism (virus or bacterium), the body needs a measured response as attempts to return to a state of normal equilibrium.
This is when omega-3s come into play; they help the immune system to “calm down” and induce an anti-inflammatory effect after the initial immune response. This is extremely important.
If this cascade event does not occur, the immune system would remain activated and, potentially, cause actual damage as opposed to effecting a repair.
Most people have too much proinflammatory omega-6 in their body, which exacerbates the immune system and causes it to function irregularly. Krill oil can help to rebalance the omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
NH: This is a very important question for us at Aker BioMarine. Sustainability is key to our strategy and longevity in the industry. We know that krill has key benefits for human health; but, at the same time, the health of the oceans is equally important.
At Aker BioMarine, we approach this on multiple levels. Science is one of the most important cornerstones of our business.
And when it comes to sustainability, we rely on scientists to help us better understand what is happening in Antarctica — and then we work together to find ways to make better decisions for the future.
We also have strong relations, close collaborations and ongoing dialogues with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and ocean conversation groups. Our co-operation with these groups has enabled us to better facilitate our research and understanding in Antarctica.
Our sustainability efforts are reinforced by third-party certifications. We were the first MSC-certified krill supplier, adhering to the most stringent sustainability standards, and we are also the first and only IKOS-certified supplier.
Finally, Aker BioMarine has committed to ambitious sustainability goals by 2030, such as reducing our carbon dioxide emissions through energy saving measures and green technology.