Microalgae n-3 PUFAs Production and Use in Food and Feed Industries

Mar Drugs. 2021 Feb 18;19(2):113. doi: 10.3390/md19020113.


N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), and especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential compounds for human health. They have been proven to act positively on a panel of diseases and have interesting anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer properties. For these reasons, they are receiving more and more attention in recent years, especially future food or feed development. EPA and DHA come mainly from marine sources like fish or seaweed. Unfortunately, due to global warming, these compounds are becoming scarce for humans because of overfishing and stock reduction. Although increasing in recent years, aquaculture appears insufficient to meet the increasing requirements of these healthy molecules for humans. One alternative resides in the cultivation of microalgae, the initial producers of EPA and DHA. They are also rich in biochemicals with interesting properties. After defining macro and microalgae, this review synthesizes the current knowledge on n-3 PUFAs regarding health benefits and the challenges surrounding their supply within the environmental context. Microalgae n-3 PUFA production is examined and its synthesis pathways are discussed. Finally, the use of EPA and DHA in food and feed is investigated. This work aims to define better the issues surrounding n-3 PUFA production and supply and the potential of microalgae as a sustainable source of compounds to enhance the food and feed of the future.

Keywords: DHA; EPA; feed industry; food industry; microalgae; n-3 PUFA.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Aquaculture
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / biosynthesis*
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / pharmacology
  • Food Industry
  • Humans
  • Microalgae / metabolism*


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid