Researchers at the University of Moncton are studying the health benefits of a new plant oil, Ahiflower oil, which has never been consumed by humans before but may be an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Natalie Lefort and Marc Surette at the University of Moncton are studying Ahiflower oil

Natalie Lefort, a post-doctoral researcher, and biochemistry Prof. Marc Surette, at the University of Moncton, are studying the health benefits of Ahiflower oil. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Marc Surette, a biochemistry professor who is leading the team, says there's a global shortage of fish oils and Ahiflower oil could offer a more sustainable and affordable way for people to get the cardiovascular benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.

It's the first clinical trial of its kind involving Ahiflower oil and has the potential to boost the profile of academic research in Atlantic Canada, said Surette.

"It's not often we'll get a product whose initial study, clinical study is performed here," he said.

"This being the initial clinical study for this product that could become a world-wide product used in foods or supplements, is pretty exciting and helps us establish our ability to do clinical trials here in Moncton."

The research team is looking for 50 people willing to participate in the four-week, double-blind study, said Surette.

Participants will be asked to consume two teaspoons of oil per day — either the Ahiflower oil or flax seed oil. Their blood will drawn and tested for Omega-3 fatty acid levels before the study, midway through and at the end, he said.

Ahiflower oil is derived from a wild plant, discovered in North Carolina and now being produced in Prince Edward Island, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.