EPA-rich microalgal oil may slash cholesterol levels in healthy individuals: RCT

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

EPA-rich microalgal oil may slash cholesterol levels in healthy individuals: RCT

Related tags: omega-3, EPA and DHA, cholesterol reduction

Supplementation with an EPA-rich oil from Nannochloropsis microalgae may reduce total and very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL) levels in healthy people, says a new study using Qualitas Health’s AlmegaPL.

Data published in Nutrients​ indicated that 12 weeks of supplementation with one gram per day of AlmegaPL providing 250 mg of EPA omega-3 led to decreases of VLDL of 25%, which resulted in a significant decrease in total cholesterol, compared to the placebo.

The algae oil supplements also increased the Omega-3 Index from baseline values of 4.96 to 5.75, reported researchers from RDC Clinical (Australia), the University of Sydney, The University of Queensland, and Qualitas Health.

“Interestingly, the decrease in VLDL was not associated with an increase in LDL, which seems to be a benefit associated with EPA-only based formulations,”​ wrote the researchers. “Collectively, these results show that AlmegaPL provides a natural EPA-only option to increase EPA and manage cholesterol levels in the general population.”

iWi

Miguel Calatayud, CEO of Qualitas Health, told NutraIngredients-USA that the results of the study will help craft the next clinical trials for AlmegaPL. The ingredient has a unique polar lipid content, which is a blend of phospholipids and glycolipids. This underpins the brand’s claims of higher bioavailability.

AlmegaPL is not available as a bulk ingredient but is used in Qualitas’ iWi brand (pronounced eee-wee) and some other exclusive partner products, explained Calatayud.

Qualitas grows its algae at two locations in the deserts of West Texas and southern New Mexico.

Commenting on the new study, Calatayud told us: “We knew we had something unique but the results were a good surprise for us. The study included a very healthy population, with cholesterol levels in the normal range, and triglyceride levels slightly lower than average.

“We saw impressive increases in the omega-3 index with an EPA dose of only 250 mg, and significant reductions in total cholesterol.”

Study details

For the new study, the researchers recruited 120 healthy people to participate in their double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled supplementation study. Participants were randomly assigned to consume 1 gram per day of AlmegaPL or placebo for three months. Triglyceride levels at the start of the study were 0.99 mmol/L and 1.04 mmol/L in the supplement and placebo groups, respectively. Normal triglyceride levels in the adult population are considered to be less than 1.7 mmol/L. Total cholesterol levels at baseline for the supplement and placebo groups were 6.47 mmol/L and 6.51 mmol/L, respectively.

Results showed that, after 12 weeks, the active supplement group experienced reduction in total cholesterol and VLDL cholesterol of 3% and 25%, respectively. In subgroup analysis of people with higher cholesterol levels at baseline, the reductions were slightly higher at 4% and 27%, respectively.

However, no statistical differences were recorded between the groups for HDL, LDL, triglycerides, the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, or non-HDL-cholesterol.

“The decrease in fasting cholesterol was driven by the decrease in the VLDL fraction, which is responsible for transporting the triglycerides assembled in the liver to the muscle and adipose tissue,” ​wrote the researchers.

“The liver responds to LCn-3 PUFA supplementation by inhibiting triglyceride production, which contributes to the decrease in VLDL that we observed. Perhaps in alignment with this mechanism, we recorded a significant increase in liver function compared to placebo.”

In addition, the omega-3 index (O3I) increased in the algal oil group, while EPA concentrations also increased. DHA levels did not increase.

“This is consistent with the fact that EPA, which is the only LCn-3 PUFA present in AlmegaPL, does not significantly convert to DHA, but DHA readily converts to EPA in the body,” ​explained the researchers. “Instead, some EPA is converted to n-3 DPA, a fatty acid that is not accounted for in the O3I.

“Therefore, a source of EPA-only is a priori a more difficult way of increasing O3I. However, the EPA present in AlmegaPL is rich in glycolipids and phospholipids and has higher absorption than other LCn-3 PUFA sources. Both factors may have accounted for the observed O3I increase, which was in line with the response expected from supplements containing both DHA and EPA.”

Fitting the need of the general population

To conclude, the researchers stated: “While the study extended over only 12 weeks, the participant selection and grouping criteria used suggest that these benefits will be experienced by the general “healthy” adult population.

“The results are especially relevant because AlmegaPL is the first natural source of EPA-only that is available over the counter for dietary supplementation. This novel ingredient provides a less processed and more affordable source of this fatty acid that fits the needs of the general population.

“In conclusion, the AlmegaPL provides a natural EPA-only option that could increase EPA and O3I, control cholesterol levels, and preventively support cardiovascular health in the general population.”

Source: Nutrients
2020, 12​(6), 1869; doi: 10.3390/nu12061869
“Omega-3 Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) Rich Extract from the Microalga ​Nannochloropsis Decreases Cholesterol in Healthy Individuals: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Three-Month Supplementation Study”
Authors: A. Rao et al.

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