Omega-3 consumers unaware of benefits: Unilever survey

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Most Canadian seniors actively seek out omega-3 food products, but many amongst them are still not clear about the specific health benefits of the fats, according to a survey sponsored by Unilever Canada.

Conducted last month by Leger Marketing, the survey found that over three quarters of the country’s baby boomers read nutrition facts panels on foods, and most are looking for information on fats.

“But for a demographic so concerned about fats, few boomers actually understand the health benefits of omega-3 fats,”​ said Unilever Canada.

The online survey involved 1,133 Canadian adults, designed to represent a national random sample. Of those, 318 were between the ages of 35-44 and 815 were between the ages of 45-64.

Unaware awareness

According to the responses from the older population, 64 percent said the look for products that are rich in omega-3.

Just over 70 percent consider themselves to be educated about the benefits of omega-3s. However, half of respondents were not aware of the heart health benefits associated with the two long-chain omega-3 forms – eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

In addition, only 30 percent of older Canadians were able to identify the three major forms of omega-3 – EPA, DHA and the plant-derived alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Fish rules

Almost 90 percent of boomers knew that oily fish was a source of omega-3, but fewer people were aware of the plant sources of the fats. Only 54 percent knew that soybeans contain a form of omega-3, 44 percent were aware of omega-3 in walnuts, and 36 percent knew about flaxseed.

In general, almost three quarters of older respondents did not know that ALA is an essential omega-3 fat, said Unilver Canada, which markets an omega-3 fortified margarine, Becel. The product, positioned for heart health, contains 0.6g of a combination of EPA, DHA and ALA per serving.

The survey found that 59 percent of Canadian boomers opt for non-hydrogenated margarine instead of butter.

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