Preparation of highly purified concentrates of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid


Because of the complexity of marine lipids, polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) derivatives in highly purified form are not easily prepared by any single fractionation technique. The products are usually prepared as the ethyl esters by esterification of the body oil of fat fish species and subsequent physicochemical purification processes, including short-path distillation, urea fractionation, and preparative chromatography. Lipase-catalyzed transesterification has been shown to be an excellent alternative to traditional esterification and short-path distillation for concentrating the combined PUFA-content in fish oils. At room temperature in the presence of Pseudomonas sp. lipase and a stoichiometric amount of ethanol without any solvent, efficient transesterification of fish oil was obtained. At 52% conversion, a concentrate of 46% eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) plus docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was obtained in excellent recovery as a mixture of mono-, di-, and triacylglycerols. The latter can be easily separated from the saturated and monounsaturated ethyl esters and converted into ethyl esters either by conventional chemical means or enzymatically by immobilized Candida antarctica lipase. Urea-fractionation of such an intermediary product can give an EPA+DHA content of approximately 85%.

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Correspondence to Harald Breivik.

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Breivik, H., Haraldsson, G.G. & Kristinsson, B. Preparation of highly purified concentrates of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. J Amer Oil Chem Soc 74, 1425–1429 (1997).

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Key words

  • Candida antarctica
  • DHA
  • enrichment
  • EPA
  • esterification
  • fish oil
  • lipase
  • n-3 fatty acids
  • Pseudomonas sp