Unsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids – who hasn’t heard or read about them. Despite the wide media coverage and explanations in schools and magazines about nutrition and health, it is still a mystery to many where the difference lies and where it comes from.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), also known as Omega-3, play a very special role, as they have been proven to perform a variety of positive and essential tasks in the body.
What makes unsaturated fatty acids so important for us humans?
Unlike saturated fatty acids, the body cannot produce unsaturated fatty acids, such as DHA and EPA, on its own and is dependent on taking them in through food.
They have their good reputation thanks to numerous positive properties. Among other things, studies prove the following effects:
- EPA has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system
- DHA is good for brain development and maintenance
- They are needed for the production of various messenger substances (tissue hormones)
- Unsaturated fatty acids like DHA and EPA have anti-inflammatory properties
- DHA is good for the blood circulation, because it has a positive effect on the cell membrane
But what is the difference to saturated fatty acids?
Colloquially fats are often distinguished into “good” (unsaturated) and “bad” (saturated) fatty acids. One cannot avoid the “bad” fatty acids completely, since both kinds of fatty acids do not occur individually, but nearly always together. The concentration can vary however strongly. One can thus very well pay attention to it more unsaturated fatty acids to itself to take than saturated fatty acids. To escape them completely is however unfortunately impossible.
Saturated fatty acids (such as butter, myristic and caprylic acids) often occur in animal foods, but also in coconut and palm oil. Saturated fatty acids are however not completely bad, on the contrary, they fulfill many vital functions in the body. It is to be noted however that too much of the “bad” fatty acids increase the concentration of the Cholesterin in the blood, and thus among other things the risk at a cardiovascular disease to get sick increase.
What are common DHA and EPA Omega-3 sources?
DHA and EPA, i.e. Omega-3, are found almost exclusively in marine animals and plants. Especially fish that live in cold waters depend on good blood circulation and flexible cell membranes to survive in the icy water. DHA and EPA enable exactly this and are absorbed by the fish via microalgae.
What are the problems of conventional DHA Omega-3 sources?
DHA and EPA are usually derived from fish oil. Probably the biggest problem with this way of obtaining DHA and EPA is overfishing. It is no secret that fish stocks have been declining for years due to overfishing. This problem has far-reaching consequences for marine ecosystems.
An alternative to wild catching is breeding. Mass breeding and overcrowded fish farms mean stress for the fish and ethically questionable farming methods. It is also questioned whether farmed fish are at all capable of producing unsaturated fatty acids to the same extent as their conspecifics in the wild.
In addition, only a fraction of the fish can be processed into fish oil. The low extraction rate makes it necessary to fish many fish to generate high-yield oil products.
With the growing world population, the demand for DHA and EPA will continue to increase, so it is imperative to find a more sustainable source. Microalgae offer the ideal solution.
How can algae help to solve the problems?
Since microalgae, also known as phytoplankton, form the basis of the DHA and EPA food chain, they are ideal candidates for a sustainable and more efficient source of unsaturated fatty acids.
Fish, such as salmon, absorb the unsaturated fatty acids by eating the phytoplankton. By skipping the fish in the chain and immediately switching to the phytoplankton, overfishing can be counteracted and the DHA and EPA can be prevented from being only partially absorbed in the fish’s metabolism.
Microalgae offer an interesting prospect of alternative sources of unsaturated fatty acids, which offer a great variety and modularity of DHA and EPA content. Through targeted selection, species can be chosen and bred that contain the ideal balance of DHA and EPA.
What are the benefits of foods and dietary supplements containing DHA and EPA Omega-3 ?
Foods and dietary supplements containing unsaturated fatty acids from microalgae are a more sustainable solution for gaining DHA and EPA. The lower ecological footprint from producing less feed for fish farming and reducing overfishing is future-oriented.
It also offers a solution for vegetarian and vegan consumers who often have difficulty absorbing unsaturated fatty acids, as they are only present in very small amounts in vegetable sources.
Undoubtedly the health relevance of unsaturated fatty acids can not be denied. It is in view of the rapid population growth of the earth our obligation alternative sources for these essential contents materials to find, which is resources-careful and it us at the same time makes a healthy life for everyone possible.
Algae offer exactly that – a solution that has a future.
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