Busting the myths around algal-based omega-3s and their potential in early life nutrition

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors



  • Omega-3 fatty acids offer unique health benefits throughout life, especially for mothers and babies during the first 1,000 days. 
  • Traditionally, omega-3 solutions have been created using fish oil, but algal-based lipids offer exciting innovation potential and sustainability benefits. However, there are some misconceptions about omega-3s from algae, which have contributed to lower adoption of these ingredients.   
  • We’ve outlined four key points you should know about algal-sourced omega-3 products, with a lens on nutrition for early life. 

Omega-3 fatty acids, like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), offer important benefits throughout life, including support for heart health, eye health, cognitive health and immunity. DHA has been shown to be especially important in the first 1,000 days of life, as it plays a key role in brain development and cognitive function.1 It also supports mental adaptability and problem solving, visual development, attention and information processing.2,3,4,5 For mothers, omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy has been shown to help lower the risk of preterm birth6 – the leading cause of death in children under five years of age7. Consequently, omega-3 products are popular nutritional solutions for mothers and their babies. However, rising global demand for omega-3 supplements is putting a major strain on fish stocks – and there simply aren’t enough fish supplies to support the growing need. 

As consumers become more aware of the impact their purchasing habits have on the planet, algal-based omega-3s could offer a potential new route to unlocking the benefits of omega-3s in a more sustainable way. But to date, a lot of mystery still surrounds plant-sourced omegas. Here, we de-bunk the myths around algal-based omega-3s and showcase how they can support healthy pregnancies and childhoods, while also delivering on safety, quality and efficacy expectations.

Find out more about dsm-firmenich’s algal-based omega-3s portfolio and the benefits for Maternal Health.

MYTH: Fish make their own Omega-3 fats

BUSTED: Contrary to popular belief, fish do not produce omega-3s, like DHA, themselves. They consume omega-3 fats from eating microalgae in the ocean. Consumers can go straight to the plant-based source too by choosing omega-3 products created using algal oils. An added benefit is that algae solutions have a more neutral taste as well – bringing no fishy smell or aftertaste!

MYTH: Algal sources of omega-3 are less potent and bioavailable than fish oil sources

BUSTED: Did you know, scientists can actually select and grow algae species that have higher levels of select omega-3 fats, like DHA, which is not possible in omega-3s derived from fish oil? Algal-based omega-3s also work in exactly the same way as their fish counterparts once they enter the body. Subsequently, algae can in fact be a more optimal and targeted source of omega-3 fats compared to fish oil. 

MYTH: Omega-3s from fish oil offer superior health benefits than those from algal oil 

BUSTED: Algal omega-3s provide exactly the same health benefits as fish oil-derived omega-3s. This means that individuals following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or those looking to reduce their impact on the planet, don’t have to compromise when it comes to getting their intake of omega-3 fatty acids. 

MYTH: Algal omega-3s carry the same risk of contamination as fish oil omega-3s – they all come from the ocean!

BUSTED: Algae for this purpose are grown under strictly controlled conditions and purified, meaning the algal oil is free of ocean-borne contaminants, like mercury – contaminants that can be present in fish oil supplements. The omega-3s are also extracted using water, not solvents, so there’s also no risk of exposure to toxins or environmental contaminants.

dsm-firmenich’s life’s™ algal based omega-3 solutions have been formulated specifically to optimize product purity. This further reduces the risk of exposure to potential contaminants such as mineral oil hydrocarbons (MOH), including mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) and mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH).

Harness the power of algae with dsm-firmenich’s life’s™ portfolio

dsm-firmenich’s enhanced life’s™ portfolio features clinically studied DHA that delivers the essential building blocks needed to create a healthy future for mother and baby. life’sDHA® is 100% plant-based, environmentally sustainable with reduced impact on marine ecosystems, non-GMO and free from marine contaminants. 

Discover how algal-based lipids can support healthy growth and development in infants.

Published on

08 March 2023


4 min read

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  1. Drover et al. Three Randomized Controlled Trials of Early Long‐chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation on Means‐end Problem Solving in 9‐month‐olds. Child Dev. 2009, 80(5), 1376–1384.
  2. Colombo et al. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) balance in developmental outcomes. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, vol. 121, pg. 52-56, 2017.
  3. Birch et al. The DIAMOND (DHA intake and measurement of neural development) study: a double-masked, randomized controlled clinical trial of the maturation of infant visual acuity as a function of the dietary level of docosahexaenoic acid. Am J Clin Nutr., vol. 91, no.4, pg. 848–859, 2010.
  4. Lien et al. DHA and ARA addition to infant formula: current status and future research directions. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, vol. 128, pg. 26-40, 2018.
  5. Willatts et al. Effects of nutrition on the development of higher-order cognition. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser., vol. 89, pg. 175-184, 2018.
  6. Cochrane. Omega‐3 fatty acid addition during pregnancy, 2018.
  7. Chawanpaiboon et al. Global, regional, and national estimates of levels of preterm birth in 2014: a systematic review and modelling analysis. The Lancet, vol. 7, pg. E37-E46, 2019.

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