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Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Health Benefits Beyond Fish

As a high-quality and often lean protein, fish is highly regarded worldwide as part of a balanced diet. Be it a flaky, white cod or an oily mackerel, the…

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As a high-quality and often lean protein, fish is highly regarded worldwide as part of a balanced diet. Be it a flaky, white cod or an oily mackerel, the health benefits of eating fish are numerous and well-known. One of fish’s main selling points is that it’s a tasty and convenient way of getting the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – also known as omega-3 fatty acids – which we all need for good health.

What makes these omega-3 fatty acids so important? The human body can make most varieties of fat it needs. But omega-3 fatty acids are different, these can only be obtained from food, drinks, and supplements. There is also a lot of variety within omega-3s. EPA and DHA long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are derived from sea sources such as fish or algae, while the ALA long-chain omega-3 fatty acid is found in land sources, usually from plants such as flaxseed or canola oil. ALA is the parent fatty acid of the omega-3 series. However, the conversion of ALA into omega-3 EPA and DHA is too low to meet people’s daily requirements for good health.

Also, while many people get enough ALA, it can be difficult to get enough EPA and DHA from our diet, especially for vegetarians and vegans. In fact, 83% of the global population lives in countries where the average intake of EPA and DHA is below the WHO guidelines.7 This is concerning as both EPA and DHA play unique functions in the body contributing to heart, brain, eye health, and more.[1],[2],[3]

© DSM

The plant-based challenge

Consumers want it all – taste, texture, and health benefits. However, up until now, there has been a nutrient gap in plant-based fish alternatives due to the lack of availability of plant-derived EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Health-savvy consumers who want to maximize their nutritional intake have had no choice but to eat fish or use nutritional supplements.  

For flexitarians who want to enjoy both fish and plant-based fish alternatives, manufacturers have a bigger challenge in providing an alternative that these consumers would choose to eat over naturally nutrient-dense foods like fish. The need for added value has never been more apparent in the era of flexitarians.

Tuna sandwich DSM
© DSM

The algae solution

This increasingly apparent gap in the market for high-quality plant-based fish alternatives offering the same nutritional benefits as traditional fish has finally been met with the development of DSM’s life’sOMEGA. Derived from non-GMO algae sources, life’sOMEGA is a plant-based omega-3 solution containing the same EPA and DHA fatty acids as found in traditional fish. This innovative and scalable solution provides the important health benefits without the associated negative impact on the marine ecosystem.

With DSM life’sOMEGA recently gaining regulatory approval for use in meat and fish alternatives throughout the EU, European food producers have an excellent opportunity to create nutritionally complete plant-based fish alternatives with supported on-pack health claims around eye, heart, and brain health. This, in turn, will increase engagement with these products, appealing to the rising number of vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian consumers. For producers of plant-based fish alternatives, there is finally a solution that meets their customers’ nutritional requirements through a completely plant-based source.

This was a guest contribution from Gilbert Verschelling, Director Business Development & Innovation, Savory Ingredients at DSM


[1] Bernasconi, A. A., Wiest, M. M., Lavie, C. J., Milani, R. V., & Laukkanen, J. A. (2021). Effect of Omega-3 Dosage on Cardiovascular Outcomes: An Updated Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression of Interventional Trials. Mayo Clinic proceedings, 96(2), 304–313.

[2] 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, 52.

[3] EFSA: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1734

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