Discovery could revolutionise omega-3 understanding

15 May 2018

A major discovery that could “revolutionise” the understanding of omega-3 production in the ocean has been made by an international team of scientists led by the University of Stirling.

Discovery could revolutionise omega-3 understanding

A major discovery that could “revolutionise” the understanding of omega-3 production in the ocean has been made by an international team of scientists.

Led by the University of Stirling, research has found – for the first time – that omega-3 fatty acids can be created by many invertebrates inhabiting marine ecosystems, including corals, worms and molluscs.

The breakthrough challenges the generally held principle that marine microbes, such as microalgae and bacteria, are responsible for virtually all primary production of omega-3.

Lead scientist Dr Oscar Monroig, of the Institute of Aquaculture, said that the findings strongly suggest that aquatic invertebrates may make “a very significant contribution to global omega-3 production”.

“Our study provides a significant paradigm shift, as it demonstrates that a large variety of invertebrate animals, including corals, rotifers, molluscs, polychaetes and crustaceans, possess enzymes called ‘desaturases’ of a type that enable them to produce omega-3, an ability thought to exist almost exclusively in marine microbes,” Dr Monroig explained.

First author of the study, Dr Naoki Kabeya, of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, visited the Institute of Aquaculture after receiving a fellowship from the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS).

Dr Kabeya said: “Since invertebrates represent a major component of the biomass in aquatic ecosystems such as coral reefs, abyssal plains and hydrothermal vents, their contribution to the overall omega-3 production is likely to be remarkable.”

The research also involved Stirling’s Professor Douglas Tocher, and members of an international consortium of scientists, including Dr David Ferrier, of the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews; Dr Filipe Castro, of the Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR) - University of Porto; the Spanish National Research Council; the Australian Institute of Marine Science; and Deakin University.

Dr Ferrier said: “It was very surprising to us to see just how widespread these genes were, particularly in animals that are so common and abundant in the sea.

“It is also intriguing that these genes seem to be jumping between very different organisms, such as from plants or fungi into an insect and a spring-tail, by a process of horizontal gene transfer. This has been a controversial idea, that genes can move around in this way, but our data looks rather convincing that these genes have done this in at least some of these species."

Certain omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential for human health, particularly in western countries with high prevalence of cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases for which omega-3 oil supplements are commonly prescribed. Therefore, the new research is not only likely to impact the scientific community, but also the general public and various industries involved in the production of supplements.

“These findings can revolutionise our understanding of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids production on a global scale,” Dr Monroig added.

The paper, Genes for de novo biosynthesis of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are widespread in animals, was funded by MASTS and the European Union’s FP7 funding programme.

The research is published in Science Advances.

Related categories

Related tags

Natural Innovation

Related news

Clean label comes ahead of brand

Clean label comes ahead of brand

17 Oct 2018

Consumers are now more interested in clean label ingredients instead of product descriptions or the brand name itself, when shopping for new foods and drinks, according to a new global survey – highlighting the ongoing importance of clean label product...

Read more 
A sticky issue: delivering superior product stability in sugar confectionery

A sticky issue: delivering superior product stability in sugar confectionery

17 Oct 2018

In today’s competitive confectionery market, manufacturers are challenged to deliver new, exciting flavors that maintain stability. Ardie Lankveld, market manager at Corbion, shares factors for success

Read more 
Is algae oil about to go mainstream?

Is algae oil about to go mainstream?

11 Oct 2018

Algae oil boasts some impressive nutritional, environmental and functional benefits – and several companies appear to be on the verge of broadening its use. The question remains, will food manufacturers (and consumers) buy it?

Read more 
Creating better texture in dairy alternatives

Creating better texture in dairy alternatives

26 Sep 2018

The market for dairy alternatives continues to rise, but creating appealing, creamy textures that mimic traditional yoghurt or cheese can be a major stumbling block. For suppliers, this challenge has become fertile ground for innovation.

Read more 
Sustainable food is big business

Sustainable food is big business

26 Sep 2018

Sustainability in the food industry has become much more than a buzzword, as companies increasingly realise that it is vital to their long term profitability.

Read more 
Healthy aging: Spotlight on ingredients for joint health

Healthy aging: Spotlight on ingredients for joint health

19 Sep 2018

Glucosamine and chondroitin are commonly used ingredients for healthy joints, but with increased focus on improved mobility as the population ages, other innovative ingredients are gaining ground.

Read more 
Natural health trend boosts demand for botanical flavours

Natural health trend boosts demand for botanical flavours

19 Sep 2018

Herbs, spices and extracts are gaining in popularity as consumers look for natural, recognisable flavours in their foods and drinks.

Read more 
Artisanal trend fuels ingredient innovation

Artisanal trend fuels ingredient innovation

13 Sep 2018

Craft and artisanal food and drink launches have seen a global CAGR of 28% over the past five years, according to Innova Market Insights, and suppliers are responding with investment in authentic, clean label ingredients.

Read more 
Givaudan inches closer to Naturex acquisition

Givaudan inches closer to Naturex acquisition

10 Sep 2018

Givaudan now holds 9,436,645 of Naturex shares, representing 98.06% of the capital, based on the total number of shares as of 5 September 2018.

Read more 
PepsiCo launches Nutrition Greenhouse accelerator program

PepsiCo launches Nutrition Greenhouse accelerator program

10 Sep 2018

PepsiCo has announced the launch of its Nutrition Greenhouse accelerator program in North America, an innovation initiative designed to discover and support emerging brands in the food and beverage sector.

Read more