Essential Ingredients

Meet Doug Brown from DSM, our Omega-3 Producer

8 min read

Learn about the different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids, and which forms you should look for in your multivitamin.
Learn about the different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids, and which forms you should look for in your multivitamin.

Essential Takeaways

  • DSM's oil is a one-of-a-kind patented algal source of omega-3 nutrients.

Can you tell us a little about your company?

The five founders of Martek (acquired by DSM in 2011) were involved in a NASA project to create sustainable environments in space. In order to imitate the carbon cycles on Earth, algae would be grown with carbon dioxide exhaled from the breath of astronauts, who in turn would eat the algae and again exhale carbon dioxide. Martek scientists designed and built systems for growing algae in space, and carefully investigated the nutritional properties of algae. Because many algae make DHA and EPA, they were given special attention and the important roles these omega-3’s play in human health were discovered.

We hear so much about fish with omega-3s. Why a vegan DHA/EPA oil?

Fish do not enhance the EPA/DHA they ingest from algae, they only bioaccumulate it. We reasoned that to get the purest and most potent form of EPA/DHA, we should go straight to the source bypassing further “processing” by fish.

Can you explain why your omega-3 is less risky than fish oil?

Fish oils are extracted from wild fish. There is no control over the diet or exposures of fish in the wild. Therefore, oils derived from these fish will have unpredictable and varying levels of many known and unknown components. Our omega oils are derived from algae grown in closed fermenters under sterile conditions. The algae cells are only fed pure nutrients of certified quality. Because we know everything that goes into the algae, we can be confident about everything that comes out.

Because your oil is grown in a lab, it’s mercury-free. How real are mercury concerns for products derived from fish and other ocean-harvested life?

Years ago, fish oils were not well purified and therefore contained high levels of mercury and other heavy metals. Since then, mercury levels in the ocean have only risen, according to a recent study in the journal Nature. Today, fish oils usually must be processed to distill the oil from the contaminants. Because our product is made in a lab, we bypass those problems entirely.

How powerful is your product?

Our oil is unique in the world as a patented algal source of omega-3 nutrients. It is the only non-fish source of both EPA and DHA on the market, and it delivers twice the natural potency of the highest omega-3 containing species of fish. Fish oils need to be ethylated and esterified in order to concentrate their potency to match the levels in life’s OMEGA.

How did you first find this micro algae and the others used for your product?

We explored a number of marine ecosystems from around the world and used our years of expertise to identify and isolate the best algae from these natural environmental samples.

How safe and sustainable is your micro algae fermentation?

Very. Our micro-algae fermentations rely only on sugar and simple salts. All components are food-grade (or better) and are sourced from trusted and certified suppliers. If demand grows beyond our capacity, we would simply add more of those fermenters. By contrast, the demand for fish and omega-3 oils is rising, and with it, so is pressure on wild fish stocks. If world demand continues to rise there will not be enough fish in the sea to meet it, potentially resulting in mass extinctions, price spikes, decayed human nutrition, or all of the above. Omega-3 oils from algae can put humanity back on a sustainable path because algae grow very quickly using renewable and abundant nutrients. One kilogram of our product has the potential to replace as much as 12 kg of wild fish which won't need to be caught to make fish oil.

Your company is a leader in infant DHA formulas. Can you estimate how many infants have been fed with your DHA?

More than 100 million babies and counting. There are over 100 clinical studies proving our DHA’s safety and efficacy. It’s something we’re very proud of, but we also aren’t settling here. Our research is ongoing; we’re constantly working to be even better.