Researchers discover that certain invertebrates are able to produce their own omega-3 fatty acids

In the near future, you could be taking your omega-3 fatty acids from marine invertebrates. This is after a promising discovery that the heart-friendly, “good” fat can be found not just in fish and photosynthetic microorganisms, but also in a wide range of marine animals.

Dr. Oscar Monroig, a lecturer at the University of Stirling and the lead author of the study, calls the effect of the research a “significant paradigm shift.”

Indeed, up until the study, it was thought that omega-3 produced primarily by marine microbes, particularly, by microalgae and bacteria, aside from fish. The authors discovered that marine invertebrates, such as mollusks, corals, crustaceans, and worms, possess enzymes called “desaturases” that enable them to manufacture omega-3.

“Under specific culture conditions, these organisms may exhibit enhanced biosynthetic capabilities to enable or increase omega-3 production,” Monroig said.

The discovery is not seen to have as much impact on the scientific community as on the public, where interest in the health benefits of omega-3 is spurring hours of research. Its main effect has to do with an increased variety of omega-3 sources, which also means variety in health benefits.

“Invertebrate oils are different to fish oil,” said Monroig. He explained that depending on the origin species, the resulting product might have a different fatty acid profile compared to fish oil. Some may have higher or lower concentrations of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the fatty acids known as omega-3.

Dr. Monroig stresses that despite this, omega-3 oils from invertebrates are high-quality. In fact, they may even have fewer “heavy metal and bioxin pollutants” compared to those taken from conventional sources.

The study was published in Science Advances.

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids

Contrary to what was previously believed, fat isn’t always bad for the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are considered good fats with plenty of health benefits backed by actual science. Here are some of them:

  • Omega-3 is good for the eyes – DHA is a major component of the retina in the eye, as well as the brain. Getting a sufficient supply of this fatty acid is known to reduce the risk for macular degeneration, the leading cause of eye damage and blindness worldwide.
  • It promotes brain health – Omega-3 makes up a considerable part of the brain. For this reason, this fat helps ensure proper brain development during early life. It is also linked to reduced risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease during one’s senior years.
  • It fights inflammation – Although inflammation helps the body against infections, too much of it can be harmful in that it can lead to heart disease, cancer, and others. Omega-3 helps reduce the production of pro-inflammatory molecules inside the body.
  • It reduces the symptoms of metabolic syndrome – This condition is characterized by a number of health problems: obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglyceride levels, and low HDL levels. People with metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk for conditions like heart disease and diabetes, among others. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce insulin resistance and the risk factors associated with heart disease.
  • It helps fight autoimmune diseases – The term “autoimmune diseases” pertains to conditions wherein the body’s own immune system attacks healthy cells instead of pathogens. Omega-3 has been linked to improvements in autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. It is also considered effective in attenuating the effects of lupus, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, among others.
  • It’s good for the heart – Omega-3 proves that fat isn’t necessarily bad for the heart. It improves blood pressure, reduces blood clots, and prevents the formation of plaque, among other heart-friendly effects.
  • It improves sleep – Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to troubled sleep, which can lead to a wide variety of health problems, including conditions affecting the body and the mind.

Learn of the other ways omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health at

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