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Congress must fund omega-3 DRI review, say groups

By Jess Halliday , 10-Nov-2009

A consortium of trade, scientific and consumer groups has launched a campaign to establish an Institute of Medicine expert panel to establish dietary reference intakes (DRI) for EPA and DHA omega-3, and secure funding from Congress.

Long chain omega-3 fatty acids have been repeatedly linked to a number of health benefits, including brain development and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

However a study published in the April edition of PLos Medicine cited inadequate omega-3 as the 6th leading cause of preventable death in the United States, behind between 72,000 and 96,000 deaths each year. The study attracted considerable comment from nutrition specialists, and the findings were called “shocking” by Ocean Nutrition Canada, a major omega-3 supplier.

Industry commentators have drawn attention to the void created by the lack of DRIs. Until DRIs are established, neither consumers nor public health workers can know for sure just how much people should be consuming.

The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) and eight other organisations have now formally launched a petition to establish an expert panel to conduct a review.

They estimate that the review would cost $1m to $1.5m, which should come from the US and Canadian governments.

Via a dedicated website at www.omega3petition.org , they are seeking industry comments in support of the initiative, and a platform to encourage legislators to provide the funding.

The matter is especially topical in the US at the moment, since healthcare reform is at the top of the agenda and there is a shift towards emphasis on prevention.

GOED said the establishment of DRI could “potentially result in billions of dollars in reduced healthcare costs and bring strong credibility to the nutrition industry”.

Executive director Adam Ismail said the scientific evidence that has emerged for omega-3 in the last decade suggests that EPA and DHA shortage could mean there is serious public health problem on the cards.

Andrew Shao, VOP of scientific and regulatory affairs that the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), said: “By not acting on this important initiative, we place the health of Americans and Canadians at risk”.

Besides GOED and the CRN, other organisations behind the campaign to set up an expert panel are the International Omega-3 Learning Consortium for Health and Medicine, National Fisheries Institute, National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, National Products Association, Seafood Products Association, Society for Women’s Health Research, and United Natural Products Alliance.

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