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Algae vs. Fish Oil: Discover the Key Differences

Whether you follow the latest health trends or you’ve been on that train for a long time, you’ve almost certainly come across discussion of fish oil and its benefits. Maybe you even saw your parents taking the massive capsules in the morning when you were younger. Either way, fish oil has been around as a supplement for decades and is one of the most researched ones out there. 

People take fish oil for the numerous benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. But what if fish oil isn’t the only supplement that can provide those? Below, we’ll explore one omega-3 source that’s gaining popularity: an algae supplement. Here’s the main differences between a fish oil supplement and an algae supplement, and a look at why one might opt for algae rather than the long-renowned fish oil pills that have been a vitamin cabinet staple for years. 

Omega-3s: The Common Denominator

The main connection between fish oil supplements and algae supplements is their purpose, which is to serve omega-3 fatty acids to the human body. Omega-3s are a type of unsaturated fat commonly consumed in animal sources like fish, fish oil, and krill oil. Human bodies don’t produce omega-3s on their own, which is why we turn to supplements to ensure we’re getting enough omega-3s to reap the benefits. 

What Are The Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids? 

    • Heart Health: Omega-3s are heart health superheroes. They’re well known to aid in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, which helps improve function of the heart. And even if you have a healthy heart already, they will continue to help maintain your heart’s healthy status. 
  • Eye Health: DHA is a type of omega-3, but it’s also a major part of what makes up the retina of your eye. Getting enough DHA helps support your vision and eye health. 
  • Brain Development & Pregnancy: Omega-3s are critically important during pregnancy – especially for the baby’s brain development. Just as DHA, a type of omega-3, comprises a large part of the retina of your eye, it also makes up approximately 40% of your brain. This means that enough omega-3s during pregnancy could help support development of your child’s communication skills, behavior, social skills, and intelligence.
  • Mental Health: Several studies have shown that omega-3 effectively supports one’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. It also helps relieve negative emotions and can improve the mental health of someone who has already been diagnosed once they start adding them to their diet. 

The list of omega-3’s benefits can go on and on, but this is just to give you an idea of why they’re a hugely popular addition to the human diet – and why people are now deciding what supplement to get them from.

Algae Supplements vs. Fish Oil

Let’s get right to it: algae supplements are a lesser known source of omega-3s compared to fish oil, or even just fish. It’s well-known that fatty fish, like salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, so it makes sense that we take fish oil supplements to get those fatty acids, too. But where do fish get the omega-3s? That’s where algae comes in. 

Cutting Out The Middleman

We often think of fish as the source of omega-3s, but it actually goes a bit further down the food chain than that. Fish eat krill to get their omega-3s, and krill eat algae to get their omega-3s. Algae, obviously, eats nothing, but instead is simply the original source of omega-3s for anyone out there that’s taking fish or krill oil as an omega-3 supplement. So you can take fish oil as your omega-3 supplement, or you can take algae supplements for the same benefits. 

More Environmentally Friendly

Cutting out the middleman is often the more sustainable way to do things, and in this case, that holds true. When we get a year’s worth of omega-3s from fish oil, it costs about 110 fish. In contrast, that same amount of omega-3, in capsule form just like fish oil, costs only about two square meters of algae, or about 7.2 lbs. Compared to the cost of 110 fish, that’s not much at all.

It’s Vegan! (And Other Dietary Reasons)

While we’re on the topic of the cost of fish, we should also mention that algae supplements are a vegan option for a source of omega-3s. So if you don’t want to read all the nitty gritty details about the hows and whys of omega-3s and you just want the best supplement that goes with your vegan diet, go with algae supplements. Additionally, some people can’t tolerate the side effects of fish oil; it may cause heartburn, acid reflux, nausea, or some very undesirable belching. Again, an algae supplement is the way around that.


Finally, to get a little more scientific, there are actually added benefits to choosing algae supplements over fish oil supplements. The type of omega-3s found in algae supplements contain phospholipids and glycolipids, making for about 50% more absorption into the body than omega-3s from fish or fish oil. The more absorption, the more benefits. 

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong taking either fish oil or an algae supplement. In fact, it’s better to have more options out there simply to raise awareness and get more people taking omega-3s in one form or another. But the reasons above highlight some of the main differences, how those differences affect the body and the environment, and why some might stray from the popular path of fish oil to get those magical omega-3s. 

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