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Bioengineered DHA-rich canola oil improves omega-3 levels

Article-Bioengineered DHA-rich canola oil improves omega-3 levels

Omega-3 blood levels may benefit from consumption of DHA from bioengineered canola.

Canola oil that has been bioengineered to contain higher amounts of DHA is a safe and effective way to increase omega-3 levels, according to a recent human study conducted by the supplier, Nuseed. 

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to play an important role in brain development and function. Wild fish is currently a major source of omega-3 fats, including DHA, but growing global demand is putting pressure on already dwindling fish stocks.  

Australian biotech seed company Nuseed has developed DHA-enriched canola oil that it says is an easily scalable and sustainable terrestrial alternative to fish oil, with one hectare of DHA-rich canola providing the same amount of omega-3 oil produced from 10,000 kilos of fish.  

It recently conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in healthy adults to determine the safety of Nutriterra, the ingredient derived from its GM canola crop destined for human consumption. 

‘A sustainable source of plant-based nutrition’ 

As part of this study, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, it conducted a 2-phase continuous clinical trial in healthy adults. Nuseed researchers found that increasing levels of Nutriterra resulted in increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Participants who consumed a dose of 1,200 mg had “significantly higher” DHA levels than participants who received a 0 mg and 300 mg dose.   

Commenting on the significance of this study, Nuseed’s scientific and regulatory leader, Barbara Davis, said: “Simply put, this first-in-humans clinical trial demonstrates that, just like other omega-3 sources, Nutriterra has a beneficial effect on omega-3 status in healthy adults.  When you consume Nutriterra, not only can you feel good about the fact that it is a sustainable source of plant-based nutrition, but you can feel confident that your body is using these fatty acids to improve your omega-3 status.” 

In Phase I of the study, participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups and consumed either 0, 300, 600 or 1200 mg of Nutriterra omega-3s.  At periodic intervals over 72 hours, researchers drew blood and measured plasma omega-3 fatty acids to monitor their appearance in the circulation. 

In Phase II, participants continued to take their supplements for 16-weeks and had blood drawn at weeks 0, 4 and 16.  The researchers measured whole blood and red blood cell omega-3 fatty acids to assess incorporation into red blood cells and determine changes in omega-3 status. 

‘Further evidence of nutritional value and safety’ 

The company said this latest study builds on the results of a safety study conducted in 2021, also published in Frontiers in Nutrition, which concluded that the DHA-enriched canola was safe to use in products destined for human food, nutraceuticals, and animal feed. 

“Aside from the intended changes of the fatty acid profile, none of the other compositional analytes showed biologically meaningful differences when compared to conventional canola varieties. In addition, the meal from DHA canola is compositionally equivalent to conventional canola meal. Further evidence of nutritional value and safety of DHA canola oil have been confirmed in fish feeding studies,” wrote Nuseed’s researchers. 

Canola (rapeseed) is an oil seed crop grown on about 44 million hectares globally, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It contains between 40 to 45% oil.  

Nuseed also produces DHA-rich canola for use in fish feed formulations under the brand name Aquaterra. 

Reference: “Transgenic Canola Oil Improved Blood Omega-3 Profiles: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Healthy Adults”, Frontiers in Nutrition, 10 March 2022,  

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