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  • Writer's pictureDr Meredith Wall

Is algal oil the ideal omega-3 fatty acid supplement?

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

I first became aware of algal oil when I needed to formulate a vegetarian diet for a dog with severe food allergies and osteoarthritis. Some online hunting revealed a range of algal oil supplements, as well as some interesting facts about how these products are produced, and the positives and negatives regarding their use.

No doubt about it, algal oil sounds like the omega-3 fatty acid supplement of the future. It is typically derived from different types of microalgae, and it's a far more sustainable source of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, when compared with fish oil or krill oil. There's currently huge investment and interest in its production - for example, Dutch company Veramaris has invested $200 million USD to build a large plant in Nebraska to produce algal oil for animal nutrition purposes.

Veramaris will use the algae strain, Schizochytrium, which has the desirable ability to produce both EPA and DHA (not all algae can do this). They claim that the resulting oil will have a concentration exceeding 50 percent, which sounds impressive. As an additional bonus, their production site will be entirely waste-free.

The company believes that their highly concentrated algal oil will enable the animal nutrition industry to keep up with the increasing demand for EPA and DHA, without relying on fish oil obtained from wild fish stocks - this can only be a good thing considering that approximately 30 billion dollars is currently spent on fish oil products. Another positive side to algal oil is that little to no risk of it being contaminated with heavy metals or other pollutants, as fish oil sometimes can be.

So are there any negatives? At the moment, algal oil contains predominantly DHA, along with smaller amounts of EPA and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the human body can convert to DHA and EPA to a limited extent (dogs and cats are extremely poor converters though). Some algal oils contain only small amounts of EPA, which is not ideal for therapeutic purposes. This can also be the case with fish oil produced from some deep sea fish species, like Hoki oil.

Perhaps the greatest limitation is cost - algal oil is currently much more expensive than fish oil, although hopefully this will change in the future.

Consideration of the pros and cons of algal oil supports the conclusion that it is a sustainable and effective omega-3 supplement, and we are very happy to include it in our recipes (if desired).

If you are selecting a product for your pet, we do recommend that you read all product labels carefully, and be sure to select concentrated algal oils that contain both EPA and DHA.

Some options include:

Opti3 100% Vegetarian Omega-3 EPA & DHA Supplement

Provides 150mg EPA and 250mg DHA per capsule

$36.95 AUD for 60 capsules ($0.62 per capsule)

Nordic Naturals Algae Omega soft gels

Provides 97.5g EPA and 195g DHA per capsule

$54.80 AUD for 60 soft gels ($0.91 per capsule)

Therapeia Australia Omega 3 Marine Algae Oil soft gel capsules

Provides 150mg EPA and 250mg DHA per capsule

$38.50 AUD for 60 soft gels ($0.64 per capsule)

There are quite a few more products available on Amazon, iHerb and Ebay, although they are mostly quite similar to the above. Price wise, the best option for the Australian and NZ markets appears to be the Opti3 product, although this may change. Primal Collective retails a similarly affordable product, however unfortunately this has been out of stock for some time.

Anyway, please let us know if you would like to have algal oil included in your pet's recipes, or if you have any questions about algal oil or other omega-3 fatty acid supplements:

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