Algae oil is the name for a vegetable oil extracted from algae. It contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in addition to the important alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). All three acids belong to the omega-3 fatty acids with their high degree of importance for health.
Omega-3 acids are components of cell walls and also the starting substance when it comes to hormones and metabolic products that can inhibit inflammation. Since they are essential and are not produced by the body, it is necessary and important to consume them through food. This is especially true for alpha-linolenic acid; DHA and EPA can be produced by the body in small amounts, but needs ALA to do so.
Microalgae are used for the production of algae oil. These are microscopically small algae that are no longer visible to the naked eye. As single-celled organisms, they do not carry out photosynthesis, but rely on carbohydrates as food. They include, for example, the freshwater algae spirulina and chlorella, which have been on the market as dietary supplements for several years.
Microalgae can be cultivated in open cultivation facilities or closed tube, plate or tubular systems. In our latitudes, this is mainly done in closed systems, the so-called photobioreactors, in which the microalgae multiply. This also keeps them largely free of pollutants and environmental pollution.
For the production of algae oil, manufacturers primarily use the marine microalgae Schizochytrium and Ulkinea. They are considered to be particularly good suppliers of omega-3 fatty acids.
To obtain the algae oil, it is extracted from the algae biomass and purified. A centrifuge removes all unwanted substances that may later have a negative effect on the shelf life.
Algae oil is similar in composition to fish oil, but unlike it, it can also be used by vegans.
The oil of the microalgae Schizochytrium are said to provide a particularly efficient supply of the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA.
The European Food Safety Authority has confirmed and listed some good health effects of the fatty acids ALA, DHA and EPA contained in algae oil.
Alpha-linolenic acid ALA keeps cholesterol levels in the normal range; children need it for growth and development. ALA has special importance for the development of brain and nerve cells in young children.
DHA has a positive effect on brain function, vision and blood triglyceride levels. DHA and EPA both contribute to normal blood pressure and heart function.
In addition, omega-3 fatty acids can improve blood fluidity, lower blood pressure and have a positive effect on metabolism.
Algae oil is available as an edible oil, as a dietary supplement and can also be found in food products enriched with algae oil.
Ulkinea microalgae oil may be included – according to the European Food Safety Authority – in baked goods and cereal bars as a food ingredient. Ulkinea oils are also allowed to be added to non-alcoholic beverages.
Schizochytrium oil may be included in milk and milk substitute products, spreadable and edible fats, and salad dressings. This also applies to breakfast cereals, dietary supplements and foods used for special medical purposes.
Algae oils are sensitive to heat and light and should only be stored in the refrigerator. They are excellent for cold cuisine, for example, as an addition to salad dressing, but are not suitable for heating.
Algae oil is sensitive and can spoil quickly, so manufacturers like to use it together with other vegetable oils and antioxidants. Walnut oil, rapeseed oil and linseed oil are used in this process. This can change the proportions of DHA and EPA. Those who have to pay attention to the necessary amount of daily requirement – such as vegans – should take a close look at the list of ingredients.
Since algae oil as a marine product has a slightly rancid aftertaste corresponding to its nature, citrus flavors, rosemary extracts and vitamins A and C are often added.