When it comes to our animals’ health, omega-3s are a popular supplement for a variety of reasons. Their value is well documented in numbers studies, and they’ve been shown to help support everything from healthy health, to joint health, to brain health.
Currently one of the most popular forms of omega-3s is fish oil. However, algae oil is growing popularity because of its advantages over fish oils. Various possibilities exist for obtaining algae oils with different main omega-3 fatty acids. Also, algae oil doesn’t contain cholesterol, and can be free from potential contaminants, which are a significant risk in fish oils. Additionally, because algae oil can be grown on the land, it is more environmentally friendly – it does not harm our oceans or their inhabitants.
Let’s take a look at the research and what it tells us about the benefits of algae oil…
Benefits of Algae Oil: A Review of the Research
Take a look at just a few of the research studies that outline the benefits of algae oil.
Algae Oil as a Viable Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Microalgae are particularly interesting as a source of nutraceuticals because algae can produce a number of biomolecules with bioactive properties, such as beta carotene, lutein, astaxanthin, chlorophyll, phycobiliprotein, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are useful for human and animal health and development. Nutraceuticals may be used to prevent lifestyle-related conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, and for the prevention and treatment of human and animal diseases.
Certain marine algae are primary sources of the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA and EPA, found in fish and other seafood products. An algal oil, rich in DHA and EPA, can be extracted from algal biomass grown in contained fermention vessels. Some of the reasons why an algal oil could be preferred to fish oil are: improved taste properties, sustainability, avoidance of contaminants currently found in ocean waters and complete suitability for a vegetarian diet.
Presently alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the most widely used vegetarian LC3PUFA, but only marginal amounts are converted into eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); both of which are strongly related to human health. Currently, fish oils represent the most prominent dietary sources of EPA and DHA; however, these are unsuitable for vegetarians. The potential role of algal oils appears to be particularly promising and an area in which further research is warranted.
Osteoarthritis is prevalent in the canine population and has a clear impact on animal welfare. Treatment of osteoarthritis is advised to be multimodal, with nutraceuticals becoming a popular part of this approach. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, modulate the expression and activity of inflammatory factors that cause cartilage destruction during arthritis.
Long chain fatty acids influence inflammation through a variety of mechanisms. Many of these are mediated by, or at least associated with, changes in fatty acid composition of cell membranes. Changes in these compositions can modify membrane fluidity, cell signaling leading to altered gene expression, and the pattern of lipid mediator production. Cell involved in the inflammatory response are typically rich in the n-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid, but the contents of arachidonic acid and of the n-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can be altered through oral administration of EPA and DHA.
EPA and DHA give rise to newly discovered resolvins which are anti-inflammatory and inflammation resolving. Changing the fatty acid composition of cells involved in the inflammatory response also affects production of peptide mediators of inflammation. Thus, the fatty acid composition of cells involved in the inflammatory response influences their function; the contents of arachidonic acid, EPA and DHA appear to be especially important. The anti-inflammatory effects of marine n-3 PUFAs suggest that they may be useful as therapeutic agents in disorders with an inflammatory component.
EPA and DHA had distinct effects on monocyte inflammatory response with a broader effect of DHA in attenuating pro-inflammatory cytokines. These differential effects were potentially mediated by different groups of PUFA derivatives, suggesting immunomodulatory activities of SPM and their intermediates.
To date, only a few randomized clinical trials (RCTs) have investigated the effects of omega-3 fatty acids (FA) on Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Some of these studies demonstrated that patients with very mild AD or mild cognitive impairment benefit from omega-3 FA treatment, but none showed significant improvements in cognitive function in patients with moderate or advanced AD.
This study shows that long-term omega-3 FA supplementation decreased the omega-6/omega-3 FA ratio and reduced the amount of amyloid-β in experimental animal models of AD. Omega-3 FA supplementation also improved cognitive function; this effect appeared larger in rats compared to mice, and in males compared to females. Moreover, omega-3 FA supplementation diminished the amount of neuronal loss, especially in female animals. The results of this SR indicate that it might be worthwhile to perform new clinical trials with long-term omega-3 FA supplementation in AD patients.
The effects of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation in mild AD corroborate epidemiological observational studies showing that omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in disease onset, when there is slight impairment of brain function.
A decline in memory and cognitive function is considered to be a normal consequence of aging. Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids are increasingly proposed as dietary supplements with the ability to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown the protective role of omega-3 fatty acids in mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and the risk and progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.
A number of studies in preterm and term human infants have suggested that a dietary supply of omega-3 fatty acids may be essential for optimal visual development. Animal data suggest that retinal degeneration in rats might be prevented by dietary intake of DHA, and DHA administered before ischemia may reduce pressure-induced retinal damage in monkeys.
The results indicate that DHA supplementation from algal oil may reduce serum triglycerides and increase HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in persons without coronary heart disease.
Stay tuned for more research. We’ll add it as it comes 🙂