Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society

, Volume 90, Issue 2, pp 167–182 | Cite as

Single-Cell Oils as a Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Overview of Recent Advances

Review Article


Omega-3 fatty acids, namely docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, have been linked to several beneficial health effects (i.e. mitigation effects of hypertension, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, schizophrenia, asthma, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.). The main source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil; lately however, fish oil market prices have increased significantly. This has prompted a significant amount of research on the use of single-cell oils as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the microbes reported to produce edible oil that contains omega-3 fatty acids are from the genus Schizochytrium, Thraustochytrium and Ulkenia. An advantage of a single cell oil is that it usually contains a significant amount of natural antioxidants (i.e. carotenoids and tocopherols), which can protect omega-3 fatty acids from oxidation, hence making this oil less prone to oxidation than oils derived from plants and marine animals. Production yields of single cell oils and of omega-3 fatty acids vary with the microbe used, with the fermentative growing conditions, and extractive procedures employed to recover the oil. This paper presents an overview of recent advances, reported within the last 10 years, in the production of single cell oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids.


Omega-3 fatty acids Single cell oils Docosahexaenoic acid Eicosapentaenoic acid Fermentation Thraustochytrids Omega-6 fatty acids 


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© AOCS 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fermentation and Metabolic Engineering GroupOcean Nutrition Canada LimitedDartmouthCanada

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