Depression breakthrough on horizon
A SMALL New Zealand company says it is winning a worldwide race to extract a brain acid from algae which may provide a remedy for depression.
Henderson-based Photonz, backed by The Warehouse founder Stephen Tindall, is producing microorganisms which generate eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the two omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids normally found in fish which eat the algae.
The NewZealand Heraldreported that the acid and its cousin, known as DHA, have become a holy grail for the food industry because they are seen as beneficial for a range of modern disorders from heart disease to dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Photonz chief executive Karl Geiringer said his company was focused on depression because New Zealand had one of the world’s highest rates of depressive disorders.
‘‘We also have one of the lowest fish consumptions,’’ he said.
Mr Geiringer said there had been a study by Joseph Hibbeln at the United States National Institutes of Health in the late 1990s which looked at 60 countries and plotted fish consumption and depression.
‘‘Right across all the 60 countries there was an inverse correlation — Japan at one end with the highest fish consumption and low depression, and New Zealand at the other end with the reverse,’’ he said.
A trial in Durham, England, recently found that 40 per cent of children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities showed dramatic learning improvements by taking supplements of EPA and other brain acids.
Mr Geiringer said DHAwasnow commonly extracted from fish oil and was used in baby formula, but EPA was harder to extract.