Background: The fatty acids of seed plants and microalgae stored in triglyceride are all produced in the plastid and incorporated into triglycerides by a complex biochemical exchange between the plastid envelope and the endoplasmic reticulum. The oils of seed plants provide the basis for vegetal fat production and the microalgal fats represent an important part of the basal food web of the marine environment. The health-promoting properties of these various sources of fats and in particular the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids of marine microalgae are widely recognized. The omega-3 fatty acids are known to have benefits on health and disease. Indeed, alpha-linolenic, eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHA) are linked to the regulation of mechanisms involved in numerous biological functions associated with cardiovascular disease and cancer prevention. Most EPA and DHA sources for human nutrition are provided by decreasing global stocks of fish. This is one of the reasons why industrial research has been directed towards more sustainable sources of these "marine" lipids. The synthesis of fatty acids and triglycerides are in many respects similar in higher plants and marine algae, but there are also important differences.
Conclusion: This mini-review covers the biochemistry of fatty acid and lipid synthesis in marine microalgae, and the potential health impact of the different fats is also discussed.
Keywords: Cancer; cardiovascular disease; lipid; microalga; nutrition; polyunsaturated fatty acids.
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