Iwi grows its omega-3-producing algae in saltwater ponds in Texas and New Mexico.

Omega-3 ‘better from algae than from fish’

Trial indicates that polar lipid form of EPA may support heart health more effectively


Salmon could have a new competitor as a dietary source of healthy omega-3 after a clinical trial demonstrated that a type of algae-based supplement may support cardiovascular health more effectively than fish oils.

AlmegaPL, the functional omega-3 ingredient in products made by US brand iwi life, was found to decrease triglycerides by 14%, four times what would be expected from conventional omega-3 supplements. It also reduced remnant cholesterol by up to 25%, supporting theories that EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)-only omega-3s may perform better than those containing both EPA and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), reports Vegconomist website.

EPA and DHA are the two types of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids most importance to human health.

Ponds in the desert

Iwi grows the microalgae Nannochloropsis oculata in ponds in the desert of West Texas and southern New Mexico, which offer plenty of sunshine and access to natural underground saltwater aquifers.

“Fish get their EPA and DHA from eating algae, and the fish store it in their bodies as triglycerides. When we take fish oil, we get that EPA and DHA delivered in the triglyceride form, which is meant for storage,” Iwi states on its website. “When Nannochloropsis algae is grown in the sun, this tiny plant powerhouse makes omega-3 for structure, not storage. This is the polar lipid form that delivers the highest omega-3 absorption in the human body.”

Dr Eneko Ganuza, vice president of R&D at Iwi, led the AlmegaPL research.

Beneficial to heart

“The study’s significance is underscored by its execution within a real-world population, predominantly normolipidemic supplement consumers,” he said. “This highlights the use of naturally sourced AlmegaPL algal oil as an over-the-counter supplement to help support cardiovascular health in the general healthy population.

“The remarkable triglyceride-lowering response observed in this clinical trial cannot be solely attributed to the omega-3 content alone. There is something about the unique polar form in which this algal lecithin yields the omega-3s that prove highly beneficial to our heart health.”

A previous study referenced on Iwi’s website was conducted in 2013 on 10 healthy males aged 18-45 years who consumed a standard high fat (55 g) breakfast followed by either Nannochloropis algal oil (providing 1.5 g EPA and no DHA) or krill oil (providing 1.02 g EPA and 0.54 g DHA).

Analysis of blood samples collected before the breakfast and at several time points up to 10 hours after taking the oils showed the maximum concentration of EPA was higher with algal oil, and there was no difference in DHA levels.