Isotope analysis of specific compounds applied to the identification of biological sources and geographical origins of marine oils


Philippe Soudant & Gildas Breton

Project type



ANR, Plan de Relance France

Project duration

Start Date

September 1, 2022

End Date

August 31, 2024


The LIPOTRACE project aims to improve the identification of industrial marine oil sources through innovative analytical approaches. Marine fish oils are concerned with traceability and fraud detection (biological and/or geographical origin), with strong implications in terms of health safety, marketing or fisheries sustainability. Fish oils and some microalgal oils contain long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or omega 3 (n-3 LC PUFAs). These compounds are important nutritional components of the human diet and there is a growing demand for dietary supplements containing them. These oils enriched in n-3 LC PUFAs are produced by the marine oil industry using various processes that can ultimately mask the biological (plant/animal/micro-organism) and geographical (fishing and production areas) origins of the marketed products, making it difficult to trace the oils and identify their source by detecting characteristic fatty acids. Thus, the traditional techniques for analysing lipid biomarkers by gas chromatography (GC-FID and GC-MS) are not sufficient to determine the origin of marine oils and it is necessary to couple them with more advanced techniques such as the analysis of stable isotope ratios on specific compounds (CSIA by GC-c-IRMS). Indeed, the stable isotope ratios of lipidic compounds differ according to the source (natural, botanical origin), climatic conditions or geographical origin of the oils and can therefore allow their source to be identified. Despite this high potential for authentication and traceability, CSIA studies of marine oil sources are still infrequent. The LIPOTRACE project aims to explore and develop this identification potential by combining different analytical tools (GC, CSIA, etc.) applied to a reference database of marine oils. The characterisation of molecular (GA) and isotopic (d2H, d13C) fingerprints specific to certain biological and geographical origins will thus make it possible to distinguish the sources of the oils. This identification will thus make it possible to meet the economic challenges of marine oil traceability. LIPOTRACE is supported by LEMAR for the fundamental part (CSIA analyses) and by the company Polaris for the applied part (lipid library and lipid signatures) within the framework of the France boosting initiative for the preservation of R&D employment.

The team


Gildas Breton (Polaris)

Lionel Larvol (Polaris)