Could oil seed crops replace fish oil as source of Omega 3?

Omega 3 (long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid EPA) can protect against cardiovascular disease, improve cognitive health and for fetal development in pregnancy, and prevent rheumatoid arthritis, among other benefits. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum dietary intake of 500 mg of preformed EPA plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) a day – equal to 1 or 2 portions of oily fish a week. The current supply of fish – which provides 40% of the EPA and DHA needed to allow the world’s population to meet the minimum intake - may not be enough to produce the 1.3 million metric tons of EPA a year required. “There is a large deficit between supply and demand,” Prof. Anne-Marie Minihane from the Medical School of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK says.

Since Jesus is not around to multiply the fish, the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has developed a new oil called ‘Camelina,’ made from genetically modified oil seed crops. Does that mean we should start worshipping the BBSRC as our new Lord and Savior? Only time will tell. In the meantime, British researchers have feed mice a control diet rich in oil from genetically engineered Camelina sativa, as well as fish oil, for 10 weeks. They were attempting to find out if mammals can assimilate EPA from this source, and also if oil from genetically modified plants could replace fish oil.

After examining the levels of of EPA in various organs of the body by carrying out tests on tissue concentrations of fatty acids in liver, muscle and brain tissue, and studying the effect of Camelina on the expression of genes involved in regulating EPA status and its physiological benefits, the scientists determined that the benefits were similar to those from fish oil – suggesting that omega-3 fatty acid EPA can be absorbed by mammals. “We need alternative non-marine sources” of EPA, professor Minihane told Medical News Today. “In the future, this new Camelina oil is likely to represent a viable terrestrial source of these beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which would ease the current demands on global fish production.”

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