Live Algae Are the Omega-3 of Tomorrow, One Company Says


Compared to processed fish oil, live marine algae are more bioavailable and sustainable, the company says.

New company Aqua Health Labs (Chicago) is now competing in the omega-3 market with a never-before-sold product: an EPA-rich liquid supplement containing live, unprocessed marine algae. Compared to processed fish oil, live marine algae are more bioavailable and sustainable, the company purports.

Aqua Health Labs’ PhytOriginal supplement is the only live EPA algae supplement in the world, company CEO Jordan Markuson claims. Fish themselves obtain EPA from the phytoplankton they eat. By contrast, PhytOriginal goes right to the source, feeding consumers the algae directly-specifically, the Nannochloropsis oculata algae species. The company says it worked for eight years with a University of Chicago molecular biologist to target an algae strain containing “the highest natural levels of EPA.”

Live algae sidestep concerns of overfishing presented by the fish oil omega-3 market. Aqua Health Labs’ live phytoplankton is cultivated in Chicago in sterile chambers, which also avoids exposure to pollution. “It makes good economic and environmental sense to cut out the biological middle man,” Markuson says.

But there are other benefits, too, he says. For instance, as omega-3 fish oil pills make their way to the retail consumer, the omega-3 oils are subject to oxidization that can degrade the nutritional properties of the ingredient. Because it contains live algae, PhytOriginal is shipped cold and must be kept refrigerated for the duration of its six-month shelf life-during which time the algae continue to thrive. “A healthy, living bottle of PhytOriginal will contain a green liquid. If the bottle contains a clear liquid with a layer of brown matter settled on the bottom, the phytoplankton have died,” the company’s website cautions.

By avoiding rancidity, live algae are also more easily digested, the company claims. “The gastrointestinal distress some individuals experience with fish oil pills can be related to the oil itself being rancid, or their bodies adjusting to the sudden addition of concentrated oil to their diet. PhtyOriginal is made with living phytoplankton, not concentrated oil from dead fish. It is not processed or concentrated in any way, so [it] cannot cause these side effects.”

In addition, the omega-3s in live algae may be bioavailable sooner, Markuson says. “As a live supplement, the interactions happen very quickly and differently from tablets or pills. Many pills don’t begin digesting until the small intestine, if they are ingested at all.”

Consumers are instructed to consume one or two drops of PhytOriginal daily, either directly or added to a beverage. (The company cautions against adding the supplement to hot food or beverages to prevent nutrient loss, however.) Each serving provides 350 mg of EPA, 50 mg of proline, 30 mg of astaxanthin, and 20 mg of zeaxanthin. 

How does live algae taste? According to Markuson, not fishy but slightly salty. “Some consumers say they also detect a hint of flavor similar to a fresh, leafy green vegetable,” the company says.

Aqua Health Labs is now marketing PhytOriginal in the joint-health market. Unlike fish oil, which doesn’t contain proline, PhytOriginal contains a high amount of proline, Markuson says. Proline is a precursor for hydroxyproline, which together with proline is the second greatest amino acid constituent of collagen, next to glycine. Other potential health areas include skin, heart, eye, and immune health, and sports performance.

Could this start a new category in the supplements market? “Live supplements are the future,” Markuson predicts. “It’s comparable to eating an orange instead of taking a vitamin C pill.”


Jennifer Grebow
Nutritional Outlook magazine


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