Sea Squirts: A Surprising Source of Plasmalogens

In the quest for optimal brain health and function, researchers have been exploring various compounds that may hold the key to preventing cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. One such group of compounds that has garnered attention in recent years is ethanolamine plasmalogens, a type of lipid found in high concentrations in the brain [1]. Interestingly, these plasmalogens are also abundant in an unlikely source: sea squirts [2]. In this article, we will delve into the world of plasmalogens, their role in neural health, and what we can learn from these fascinating marine creatures.

What are Plasmalogens?

Plasmalogens are a unique class of phospholipids characterized by the presence of a vinyl ether bond at the sn-1 position of the glycerol backbone [3]. They are found in various tissues throughout the body, with particularly high concentrations in the brain, heart, and immune cells [4]. Ethanolamine plasmalogens, specifically, are the most abundant type of plasmalogen in the brain, comprising up to 60% of the total phosphatidylethanolamine, the brain’s fat content [5].

The Role of Ethanolamine Plasmalogens in Neural Health

Ethanolamine plasmalogens play a crucial role in keeping brain cell membranes healthy and functioning properly [6]. They are essential for the proper development of the brain during early life and continue to support cognitive function throughout adulthood [7].

One of the primary functions of ethanolamine plasmalogens is to protect neural cells from oxidative stress [8]. The vinyl ether bond in plasmalogens is highly susceptible to oxidation, allowing them to act as sacrificial antioxidants [8]. By scavenging free radicals and reactive oxygen species, plasmalogens help preserve the integrity of neural membranes and prevent damage to critical cellular components [10].

A Surprising Source of Plasmalogens

While the importance of plasmalogens in neural health is well-established, the challenge lies in finding reliable sources of these compounds. This is where sea squirts come into play. Sea squirts, also known as tunicates, are marine invertebrates that have been found to contain remarkably high levels of ethanolamine plasmalogens [11].

Research has shown that certain species of sea squirts, such as Ciona intestinalis, have plasmalogen concentrations that rival those found in the human brain [12]. These findings have sparked interest in the potential use of sea squirts as a natural source of plasmalogens for therapeutic purposes [13].

Unlocking the Power of Ethanolamine Plasmalogens

Given the crucial role of ethanolamine plasmalogens in neural health and the promising evidence from sea squirts, researchers are now exploring ways to harness the power of these compounds. One approach is to develop dietary supplements or functional foods enriched with plasmalogens derived from sea squirts [14].

Several studies have already demonstrated the potential benefits of plasmalogen supplementation. In animal models, administration of ethanolamine plasmalogens has been shown to improve cognitive function, reduce neuroinflammation, and protect against neuronal loss [15, 16]. Human clinical trials, while limited, have also suggested that plasmalogen supplementation may enhance memory and cognitive performance in older adults [17].


The discovery of high concentrations of ethanolamine plasmalogens in sea squirts has opened up new avenues for research into the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. By unlocking the power of these essential lipids, we may be able to support brain health, enhance cognitive function, and improve the experience of aging.

As research continues to uncover the complexities of plasmalogens and their role in brain health, it is clear that these compounds hold great promise. Ceregain, a safe and readily available plasmalogen supplement, is now offering individuals the opportunity to incorporate these beneficial fats into their daily routine. By learning from the humble sea squirt and exploring the potential of ethanolamine plasmalogens, we may be one step closer to achieving optimal brain health and preserving cognitive function as we age.


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