Science

A Deep Dive Into Algal Oil vs. Fish Oil

4 min read
Blobs of algal oil.
Blobs of algal oil.

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In the realm of essential nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids continue to stand out as a power player for supporting health. Omega-3s have long been associated with supporting brain and heart health. The body is unable to produce omega-3’s on its own, which is why it is important to incorporate it from nutrition and supplementation when appropriate. Let’s explore the difference between algal oil, which is a vegan omega-3 alternative derived from microalgae, and fish oil.*

What Is Algal Oil?

Algal oil, often derived from microalgae, is a suitable alternative source of vegan omega-3 fatty acids for those that follow a plant-based or vegan diet. Microalgae is a microscopic plant that forms the basis of the aquatic food chain and contains DHA. Rather than the traditional method of being harvested from fish, algal oil is produced from the fermentation of microalgae. This helps to create a sustainable alternative to obtaining essential omega-3s.

Algal oil is quite the catch, with a tidal wave of benefits, and more being discovered every day. Algal oil has an adequate source of DHA, which supports brain health and fetal brain development. DHA is a major structural component of the brain and is also known to support heart health. (3) In addition to the direct health benefits of DHA, it’s vegan which makes it a beneficial option for those with a vegan lifestyle. It’s a clean and safe option for consumers seeking an omega-3 supplement. There’s really nothing fishy about it.*

What Is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is derived from the tissues of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Extracting the oil from fish involves several processes including a combination of methods like pressing and centrifugation, which help to ensure the separation of the fatty acids from the fish tissues. Purification processes are often done to eliminate any impurities and contaminants such as PCBs and heavy metals, which can accumulate in the tissues of certain fish. The omega-3 that comes from fish oil has note-worthy benefits when it comes to supporting heart and brain health as well.*

Why Ritual Uses Algal Oil vs. Fish Oil

So, is algal oil better than fish oil for omega-3? The answer: it depends. As with many other nutrition considerations, this ultimately comes down to individual preferences, dietary choices and health requirements. Algal oil, because it is derived directly from microalgae, is an optimal choice for those with vegan or plant-based lifestyles. It is also a sustainable source when compared to traditional fish oil. The main difference between the two really is their origin. Algal oil is inherently free from concerns related to fish consumption, while its DHA and EPA compositions mirror that of fish oil.

For some, concerns about contaminants are enough to opt out of fish oil in favor of algal oil. Though there are rigorous purification processes implemented to help reduce these concerns, some still feel more comfortable leaning towards algal oil. Ethically, there are also issues with overfishing and depleting the marine resources whilst harvesting for and producing fish oil. This again makes the case for algal oil as an environmentally conscious option. By choosing a vegan algal oil instead of fish oil in our multivitamins, we’ve saved over 790 million fish in 2022 - which is the equivalent of feeding a humpback whale for 36 years! (6)

Another unappetizing hangup is that many omega-3 supplements from fish oil also contain a fishy taste, which can lead to accompanying (and icky!) fishy burp back. On the flip side, Polaris’ algal oil (our algal oil supplier) is designed for minimal burp-back and far less of that oceanic taste. Our supplier's omega-3 oil is bioavailable and sustainably sourced from microalgae - making vegan omega-3 DHA a farming operation with a carbon neutral footprint.*

With all of these considerations in mind, our Omega-3 supplement features a science-backed dose with 500 mg of DHA & EPA in a 2:1 ratio, found in a healthy mediterranean diet.* Our product with Omega-3 algal oil is vegan, sourced from microalgae and designed for minimal burp-back in a sea of fishy alternatives. You’ve finally found an omega-3 supplement, without the “ew”.

When it comes to diving deep for an omega-3 supplement, both algal oil and fish oil give us a lot to consider – from important nutritional benefits, unique environmental considerations, and individual preferences. One thing’s for sure: Algal oil continues to emerge as a promising plant-based source of omega-3, especially if you’re looking for fish-free alternatives. As we like to say: there are plenty of fish in the sea, let’s keep them there!

References:

  1. Aravind, S., Barik, D., Ragupathi, P., & Vignesh, G. (2021). Investigation on algae oil extraction from algae Spirogyra by Soxhlet extraction method. Materials Today: Proceedings, 43, 308–313.

  2. Doughman, S. D., Ryan, A. S., Krupanidhi, S., Sanjeevi, C. B., & Mohan, V. (2013). High DHA dosage from algae oil improves postprandial hypertriglyceridemia and is safe for type-2 diabetics. International Journal of Diabetes in Developing Countries, 33(2), 75–82.

  3. Fish oil. (2023, August 10). Mayo Clinic.

  4. Ryan, L., & Symington, A. M. (2015). Algal-oil supplements are a viable alternative to fish-oil supplements in terms of docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3; DHA). Journal of Functional Foods, 19, 852–858.

  5. Schneider, K. (2021, November 17). A look at krill oil’s benefits. Cleveland Clinic.

  6. Based on supplier assessment, independently verified by Algarithm in 2022.

Meet the Author

This article was written by our content specialist.

Neeyaz Zolfaghari

Neeyaz Zolfaghari, Copywriter, Integrative ​Holistic Health ​Practitioner

Neeyaz Zolfaghari is the founder of Unspoken Nutrition, a nutrition and lifestyle brand dedicated to helping others find and create harmony with their daily habits to support their wellbeing and ‘health’. Her journey began over a decade ago, when she was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases. Knowing what she learned from her upbringing, Neeyaz turned to nutrition as the first pillar of her healing. As her body began to heal on a physical level, she began to learn how our minds, bodies and souls are all innately connected. Now as an Integrative Nutritionist and Patient Advocate, Neeyaz offers the people she works with the support, guidance, and tools they need in order to live a fulfilled life. While Neeyaz initially endeavored to make a difference at the individual level, her vision grew to embrace broader community impacts. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health, serving as a testament to her unwavering commitment to instigate change on a grander scale.

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Neeyaz Zolfaghari

Neeyaz Zolfaghari, Copywriter, Integrative ​Holistic Health ​Practitioner

Neeyaz Zolfaghari is the founder of Unspoken Nutrition, a nutrition and lifestyle brand dedicated to helping others find and create harmony with their daily habits to support their wellbeing and ‘health’. Her journey began over a decade ago, when she was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases. Knowing what she learned from her upbringing, Neeyaz turned to nutrition as the first pillar of her healing. As her body began to heal on a physical level, she began to learn how our minds, bodies and souls are all innately connected. Now as an Integrative Nutritionist and Patient Advocate, Neeyaz offers the people she works with the support, guidance, and tools they need in order to live a fulfilled life. While Neeyaz initially endeavored to make a difference at the individual level, her vision grew to embrace broader community impacts. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health, serving as a testament to her unwavering commitment to instigate change on a grander scale.

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