Algae oil may not have reached the culinary status of oils like coconut oil and avocado oil as yet but its health benefits are much-touted. It is known to be good for cardiovascular health because of its publicized high content of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Algae oil is also advertised as a vegan alternative to fish oil as it is plant-based. So, let’s find out more about its health benefits and possible side effects.
What is Algae Oil?
Algae oil is an edible oil that is extracted from algae. It is light yellow in color like most other vegetable oils and has a neutral flavor, making it ideal for everyday cooking. While research is limited on the oil, customer reviews on top online sites vouch for the fact that the oil has no scent and can be used in salad dressings and marinades. It has a high smoking point – up to 485°, making it a good choice for frying, searing, baking, and sautéing.
While there are over 40,00 species of algae found usually in ponds and lakes, the oil that is sold in supermarkets or online is extracted from algae that are grown in a sterile environment in steel tanks. This is not only to ensure quality and safety standards but also to monitor the nutrient and fat profile of the product.
According to the USDA, one tablespoon of algae oil (15 ml, branded) is 120 calories and 14 grams of pure fat, like all oils. However, it has the highest amount of good monounsaturated fats and the lowest amount of saturated fat compared to other cooking oils. For more on vegetable oils, you can read Vegetable Oils: Types, Benefits & Nutritional Value.
Algae oil is rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the medicinally important omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial to fight inflammatory diseases. However, different brands have varying amounts and types of omega-3 fatty acids and so, it is advisable to do a little research on the nutrition labels before picking up a certain brand.
Also, while a 2018 research report revealed that EPA and DHA have positive effects on relieving exercise-induced inflammation, it stated that there are no clarified optimal dosage or periods of administration for EPA and DHA.
The health benefits of algae oil are mainly due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Human research is limited and shows mixed results. Let us look at the benefits in detail.
May Boost Heart Health
Oil extracted from algae is often advertised as being the best oil for your heart. Omega 3-fatty acids may help lower triglyceride levels and increase HDL or good cholesterol, according to research studies. A 2013 report revealed that the DHA from Schizochytrium sp. algae oil was positively linked to the reduction of risk of coronary vascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes.
May Help Enhance Mood
While there are no direct studies to prove the oil may act as a mood enhancer, a study with 7,903 participants found that those who are fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids had a lower risk of anxiety and depression.
May Reduce Inflammation
Limited studies have shown a positive link between omega-3 fatty acids and the inhibition of certain inflammatory compounds that could keep arthritis and asthma at bay.
There have no reported side effects on the plant-based oil as yet. However, omega-3 supplements may interact with certain medications and anticoagulants. So, if you are taking medications, it is advisable to check with your doctor before incorporating algae oil into your daily diet.