Ask-the-Expert: The beneficial role of omega-3 fatty acids across the lifespan

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors


  • The benefits of omega-3s for the heart, brain and eyes are well established. Over recent years, however, there is a growing bank of scientific evidence related to a range of health conditions – including immunity, sleep, sports performance and mood.1,2,3,4,5,6,7
  • Less than 20% of the world’s population achieve the minimum intake of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) recommended by most expert bodies.1 Supplementation with EPA and DHA omega-3s derived from fish oils or algal.
  • In our latest Ask-the-Expert interview video, Dr. Peter Van Dael, dsm-firmenich's Senior Vice President of Nutrition Science & Advocacy, explores the latest scientific research and the role that EPA and DHA omega-3s can play in supporting health across the lifespan.  

Watch Dr. Peter Van Dael, SVP Nutrition Science and Advocacy at dsm-firmenich, talk about the benefits of the consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3s throughout life.

Why and when do we need EPA and DHA omega-3s?

As Dr. Van Dael explains, omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) are among the most highly studied nutrients and have important roles in many processes in the human body throughout the lifecycle.

Beyond heart, brain and eye health, EPA and DHA address a myriad of trending concerns. In recent years, scientific literature describes a wide variety of other areas of health where clinically-supported benefits of omega-3s are emerging, including immunity, sleep, sports performance and mood.2,3,4,5,6,7 But, while these benefits are supported by a growing body of scientific evidence, they are not necessarily top-of-mind for existing omega-3 consumers or individuals seeking solutions to support holistic health and wellness.

In addition to the examples discussed by Dr. Van Dael, it is now known that EPA and DHA omega-3s and their metabolites have an important role in resolving inflammation, which supports normal immune function. EPA and DHA molecules present at the site of inflammation are enzymatically converted to pro-resolving mediators (SPMs) known as resolvins, protectins, and maresins. These molecules, along with others, function together to coordinate the resolution of inflammation and to support healing.2

Furthermore, omega-3s, particularly DHA, may help to make a good night’s rest a reality for all age groups, with regular fish consumption shown to improve length and quality of sleep.8,9,10 Interestingly, low tissue levels of DHA are associated with lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps individuals fall asleep.11 DHA is also well-known to have a positive long-term effect on neurocognitive development.12 Both EPA and DHA omega-3s have more recently shown positive effects on the reduction of symptoms associated with mood disorders. Indeed, increasing evidence suggests that lower levels of omega-3 in the plasma may be linked to poorer mental health, including conditions related to mood.3,6

What is the case for people to take omega-3s supplements?

In the interview, Dr. Van Dael explains why current dietary habits mean that less than 20% of the world’s population1 achieve the minimum intake of EPA and DHA set by most expert bodies at 250-500 mg per day.13

A regular, healthy intake of omega-3s can be readily achieved by supplementation with micro-algal oils. For the increasing number of people making more sustainable choices and adopting plant-based lifestyles, micro-algal oil is an attractive alternative to omega-3s derived from fish oil. Micro-algal oil production is fully sustainable and environmentally friendly, enabling dietary supplement manufacturers to create solutions that appeal to a new generation of omega-3 consumers and align with preferences for products that support both their health and the health of the planet.

What services can dsm-firmenich offer omega-3 supplement manufacturers with regard to successful product development?

dsm-firmenich not only produces its omega-3 products to the highest quality requirements, but also offers expert services, including scientific and regulatory support, to its customers.

Understanding the needs, challenges and trends that can inspire the creation of innovative and appealing solutions is essential for today’s dietary supplement manufacturers. As an end-to-end partner, dsm-firmenich brings consumer insights, scientific expertise and market-ready solutions and takes a consumer-centric approach, contributing insights and innovation into every stage of the product development lifecycle. 

dsm-firmenich’s broad range of high-quality EPA and DHA omega-3 products includes its enhanced life’s™OMEGA portfolio – the only plant-based, sustainably-produced omega-3 fatty acid that combines EPA and DHA in a single, quality source. Made from fermented non-GMO micro-algae, life’s™OMEGA is around 85% more potent than omega-3 derived from fish oils. 

Discover innovation opportunities to develop omega-3 products with purpose and attract a new generation of consumers - visit the life’s™OMEGA content hub.

Published on

22 July 2021


  • Nutritional Lipids
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Article
  • Senior Management


4 min read

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  1. Murphy et al. Suboptimal plasma long chain n-3 concentrations are common among adults in the United States, NHANES 2003-2004. Nutrients, vol. 7, no.12, pg. 10282-10289, 2015.
  2. Calder, P.C. et al. Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System Is an Important Factor to Protect against Viral Infections. Nutrients., vol. 12, no. 1181, 2020.
  3. Liao et al. Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: A meta-analysis, Transl Psychiatry vol. 9, no 1, pg190, 2019.
  4. Gammone et al. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients, vol. 11, no. 46, 2019.
  5. Philpott et al. Applications of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for sport performance. Res Sports Med., vol. 27, no. 2, pg. 219-237, 2019.
  6. Fontani, G., et al., “Cognitive and Physiological Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation in Healthy Subjects.” European Journal of Clinical Investigation 35 (11): 691–99, 2005.
  7. Del Brutto et al. Dietary fish intake and sleep quality: a population-based study. Sleep Med., vol. 17, pg. 126-128, 2016.
  8. Montgomery et al. Fatty Acids and sleep in UK children: subjective and pilot sleep results from the DOLAB study – a randomized controlled trial. Sleep Res, vol. 23, no. 4, pg. 364-88, 2014.
  9. Richardson et al. Omega-3 and sleep: new insights from the DHA Oxford Learning and Behavior (DOLAB) study. Lipid Technology, vol. 27, no. 5, 2015.
  10. Jansen et al. Plasma DHA is related to sleep timing and duration in a cohort of Mexican Adolescents. The Journal of Nutrition, vol 150, no.30, pg. 592-598, 2020.
  11. Peuhkuri K et al. Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin. Food Nutr Res., vol. 56, 2012.
  12. Meldrum S and Simmer K. Docosahexanoic acid and neurodevelopment outcomes of term infants. Annals of Nutrition and Metab., vol. 69 (supplement 1), pg. 23-28, 2016.
  13. Official Journal of the European Union L160/4, Commission regulation (EU) 536/2013 of 12th June 2013.

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