Research on Functional Ingredients

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)

EPA, widely used in pharmaceuticals, health foods and food ingredients. Nissui conducts R&D for managing all marine resources sustainably and using finite resources efficiently for human health.

Fish oils are rich in EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (*1) which is rarely found in plant oils and animal oils other than fish. It is an essential amino acid (*2) that cannot be made in the body.
Nissui conducts R&D for processing the various properties of these marine resources into easy-to-use formats for daily health or enhancing their properties.

Structural Formula of EPA

EPA Research

EPA began attracting attention as a result of epidemiological studies (*3) conducted among people in Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, by Dr. Jorn Dyerberg between 1963 and 1967.

Based on these studies, it was found that

This led to a surge of interest in EPA worldwide, and various studies are being conducted.

Comparison of the Main Fatty Acid Composition for Sardines and Cooking Oil (%)

EPA DHA Palmitic acid
(*4)
Stearic acid
(*5)
Oleic acid
(*6)
Linoleic acid
(*7)
Sardine oil as ingredient for EPA for pharmaceuticals *1 18.2 13.5 13.7 2.4 14.2 1.2
Soybean oil *2 0 0 10.6 4.3 23.5 53.5
Lard *2 0 0 25.1 14.4 43.2 9.6
  1. *1Value analyzed by Nissui
  2. *2Source: Fatty Acid Composition Charts, Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan, 5th Revised Edition, 2005.

EPA for Pharmaceuticals

Working with a pharmaceuticals company, Nissui began researching how to refine EPA for use in drugs in 1981.
A drug for obstructive arteriosclerosis using EPA was launched in 1990 and use of the drug was expanded to apply to hyperlipidemia (*8) in 1994.
Nissui supplies the raw material for EPA pharmaceuticals.
Research has been conducted into the physiological functions of EPA--to prevent circulatory system diseases and for its anti-allergy, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects. EPA is found in drugs, health foods, food ingredients and many other applications.

Producing Highly Pure EPA

Natural fats and oils (*9) are compounds of glycerin (*10) and fatty acids (*11) found in many fatty acids.

Raw material sardine oil contains around 20% EPA. For medicinal grade EPA, purity must be raised to 90%. No single method can be used, so a combination of methods is needed. EPA oxidizes easily and can gradually decompose if exposed to oxygen. We overcame these problems and succeeded in mass-producing highly pure EPA.

We made further improvements and are now capable of producing higher-purity (over 96%) EPA.

Manufacturing Process for Highly Pure EPA

In the future, we must find ways of using finite marine resources efficiently

Given its excellent properties, we expect demand for EPA to grow.
But marine resources are finite, so managing marine resources sustainably and using finite resources efficiently and without waste are important research topics for the future.


  1. *1: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid
    Fatty acids with several double bonds are called polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are further divided into the omega-3 (EPA, DHA, Alpha-linolenic acid, etc.) and omega-6 (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, etc.) groups.
  2. *2:Essential amino acid
    Essential amino acids are fatty acids the body needs but which cannot be made in the body and which must be obtained from the diet.
  3. *3:Epidemiological study
    A study of diet and environmental factors, etc. in a given population and their relationship with disease which uses statistical methods to arrive at causes.
  4. *4:Palmitic acid
    A fatty acid widely dispersed in nature. Saturated fatty acid, carbon number 16, no double bonds.
  5. *5:Stearic acid
    A saturated fatty acid like palmitic acid, carbon number 18.
  6. *6:Oleic acid
    A fatty acid, carbon number 18 with one double bond.
  7. *7:Linoleic acid
    Fatty acid often found in plants, carbon number 18, with two double bonds. One type of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid with a double bond in sixth place from the end carbon.
  8. *8:Hyperlipidemia
    Describes elevated levels of cholesterol or other lipids in the blood.
  9. *9:Natural fats and oils
    Neutral fats from animal and plant sources, usually found in the form of triglycerides.
  10. *10:Glycerin
    The main ingredient in fats. Edible oils are usually composed of triglycerides, where one glycerin atom is bonded with three fatty acid atoms.
  11. *11:Fatty acids
    The main ingredient in fats, that comes in several configurations. Fatty acids include oleic acid and linoleic acid, which are found in plant oils, and EPA and DPA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found in fish oils.
  12. *12:Ethyl ester
    A compound in which ethanol has bonded instead of glycerin. "Ester" refers to the type of bonding (-COO-), the same configuration as when bonded with glycerin.
  13. *13:HPLC
    High-speed liquid chromatography apparatus. Using a separation column and pressurized liquid, this apparatus separates compounds to provide simultaneous analysis of amino acids.