The highly competitive omega-3s market continues to differentiate, with the latest move being made by Europharma with claims of superior freshness for its Vectomega product.
The Green Bay, Wis.-based manufacturer of the omega-3 product under its Terry Naturally brand with its unique (for North America) tablet delivery form released results of a study it conducted that compares Vectomega to fish oil and krill oil in terms of freshness.
The company’s statement summing up the study results said, “Independent testing has revealed that leading brands of fish and krill oil have some levels of rancidity.” Vectomega, on the other hand, being a solid tablet and rapidly processed after harvesting is not subject to oxidation, the company said.
The key difference with Vectomega is the source and the processing methods used, Cheryl Myers, head of scientific affairs and education for Europharma USA , told NutraIngredients-USA. The process, called vectorization, was developed at the University of Nancy in France, where researchers were looking at different ways to extract omega-3s from salmon. And it is in France that the Vectomega product is made.
“They found that in the brain of the salmon the omega-3s are attached to phospholipids. Because of the location and the way they occur in the salmon, the extraction process is extremely simple so you only use water and proteolytic enzymes as part of the extraction,” she said.
Gentle extraction process
Myers contrasted the gentle extraction method of the Vectomega process to the harsher methods needed for fish oil and krill oil extraction. Some of the methods use hexane, she said, and the molecular distillation process, while yielding a purer oil, does heat the product to a high temperature, making another avenue for potential oxidation and rancidity.
“One of the challenges with fish oils has always been that they are an oil. Depending on how much you handle them, they can become rancid,” she said.
Myers said that potential rancidity in fish and krill oils could cause oxidative stress in the body, so along with the benefits of their omega-3s content comes potential challenges for the body’s antioxidant systems.
Harry Rice, PhD, vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) differed with Myers on the subject of rancidity. He didn’t see it as a big issue in the modern omega-3s marketplace.
“It probably was a concern about 10 years ago. It’s rare now we hear about rancid oils,” he said, adding that the human taste sensory system seems set up to detect high degrees of rancidity. “My understanding is that when you get a rancid oil is that you just wouldn’t ingest it. The reality is you really can’t hide rancid oil.”
As for milder levels of staleness, Rice said, the jury is out on whether it is truly harmful.
“There is no human data out there to support any kind of damage from oxidized or rancid oils,” he said.
Vectomega delivers is omega-3s bound to phospholipids, Myers said, making them more absorbable than the triglyceride form of fish oil. And it shares with krill oil the claim to better digestive tolerability.
Another benefit of the mild extraction process for Vectomega lies in the form in which the EPA and DHA molecules are delivered, she said. Because of the more complex extraction processes needed for fish and krill oils, the EPA and DHA molecules end up in somewhat different configurations compared to how they were arranged in the raw material.
“The extraction process does not stress and twist the omgea-3s so the EPA and DHA in Vectomega is absolutely identical to the EPA and DHA in the salmon and in our brain,” she said. This makes for superior uptake in the body, she said.
Rice was more accommodating on this score.
“I’ve seen a little bit of preliminary research that depending on the structure [the omega-3s] may be more bioavailable,” he said.
One this is clear: Being a one-a-day tablet product, Vectomega may show a benefit in terms of compliance. Many consumers simply don’t like oil-filled softgels, and some balk at the large size of some fish oil products.
“I think the reality is there is a place for all them because we really need so much material to meet the demand,” Rice said.