Before diving into the significance of sn-2 positioned DHA in algal oils, it’s essential to grasp the basics of omega-3 fatty acids, Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The first most prominent in plant-based sources, and the two latter as the by far most important “omega-3 superstars” found in fatty fish and other marine sources. DHA, in particular, is known for its importance in cognitive function and early brain development.
Algal oil as a new and sustainable source of DHA
DHA has, as already mentioned, traditionally been sourced from fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, cod, anchovy etc. However, with the growing demand for sustainable and vegan-friendly alternatives, algal oils have emerged as a valuable option. Algal oils are sourced from microalgae, microscopic aquatic organisms, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, With the rise of algal oils as a source of omega-3s, we’re presented with a unique feature: The presence of sn-2 positioned DHA.
The role of Sn-2 positioned DHA
Sn-2 positioned DHA refers to the specific molecular arrangement of the DHA molecule within a triglyceride. Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the human body and dietary fats. In this structure, three fatty acid molecules are attached to a glycerol molecule. The position of DHA on the glycerol backbone can significantly affect its bioavailability and utilization in the body. Sn-2 positioned DHA is particularly noteworthy because it mirrors the arrangement found in human breast milk. Hence, the human body is designed to efficiently absorb and utilize DHA when it is present in the sn-2 position, also confirmed by scientific evidence.*
Verification of the level of Sn-2 positioned DHA
Based on this science, Jiabeijian challenged ORIVO to find a way to verify the level of Sn-2 positioned DHA in the algal oil products offered by the company. With nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy we have been able to measure the specific molecular arrangement (Sn-1, Sn-2 or Sn-3) of DHA on the glycerol molecule in the omega-3 triglyceride. Or easier said; we can measure the percentage of all the DHA fatty acids that are positioned in Sn-2 position.
As dedicated chemists, our CEO and CTO were thrilled the second they heard about this Sn-2 stereo chemistry hype. As a company, we got even more thrilled when we found a pioneering supplement company from China willing to highlight this concept and convert it into a key marketing element for consumer products. Congratulations to the Jiabeijian team with the launch of their two “Sn-2 SKUs”, Bioamicus and Surmerry kids, may there be many more to follow!
- Incorporation of Sn-2 DHA into Brain Lipids: A study published in the “Journal of Lipid Research” by Dijck et al. (2006) examined the incorporation of sn-2 positioned DHA into brain lipids. The research found that sn-2 DHA is more efficiently incorporated into phospholipids, a critical component of neural membranes, making it vital for brain health.
- Sn-2 Positioning of DHA in Infant Formula: In a comprehensive review published in the “Journal of Nutrition” by Carnielli et al. (2007), the authors discussed the importance of sn-2 DHA positioning in infant formula, emphasizing its role in mimicking the structure of breast milk to support optimal infant development.
- Effect of Sn-2 DHA on Inflammation: A study conducted by Brossard et al. (2016) and published in the “Journal of Nutrition” investigated the effect of sn-2 positioning of DHA on inflammatory markers. The findings suggested that sn-2 DHA may have superior anti-inflammatory effects.