DOI: 10.1097/mco.0000000000001006 ISSN: 1363-1950

Alternative sources of bioactive omega-3 fatty acids: what are the options?

Ella J. Baker
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

Purpose of review

The very-long chain (VLC) omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) promote optimal development, physiological function and healthy ageing and help to manage disease. EPA and DHA are sourced mainly from fish, which is not sustainable. This review explores alternative sustainable sources.

Recent findings

Recent research confirms that higher intake and status of EPA and DHA are associated with health benefits including lower risk of incident type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease mortality. Meta-analyses confirm benefits of intravenous EPA and DHA in hospitalized adults. Algal oils and seed oils from some genetically modified (GM) plants are sources of EPA and DHA. An oil from GM camelina showed equivalence with fish oil in human trials. Ahiflower oil, a source of stearidonic acid, had biological effects in experimental studies that might translate into health benefits. An intravenous lipid emulsion based on Ahiflower oil has been tested in experimental research. Pine nut oil (PNO) is a source of pinolenic acid, which is not an omega-3 PUFA but has similar actions.


Algal oils, oils from GM seed crops, Ahiflower oil and other sources of stearidonic acid, and nonomega-3 oils including PNO, are plant-sourced sustainable alternatives to fish-sourced VLC omega-3 PUFAs.

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