Omega-3 awareness not backed by supplement choices: Survey

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Eicosapentaenoic acid

The majority of US consumers believe they are missing omega-3s in their diet, but most do not opt for fish oil supplements to address this need, according to a nationwide survey.

Conducted by Equation Research on behalf omega-3 supplier Croda, the survey found that almost 50 percent of respondents felt that they or their families were lacking essential nutrients.

When it came to omega-3 only 26 percent of Americans said they take fish oil supplements, despite the fact that 63 percent of respondents believes they were missing omega-3s from their diet.

The online survey involved just over 1,000 American adults. The survey, which was fielded in September last year, gathered responses from consumers across the country, with an average age of was 46.

According to Croda, key consumer considerations when deciding to take supplements in general include cost, confusion and lack of perceived need.

Benefits

Omega-3 is thought to benefit a wide range of health conditions, although the most conclusive scientific evidence today focuses on heart and cognitive health. Other areas of potential benefit include mood and behaviour (including learning disorders and depression), eye health and the healthy development of a foetus during pregnancy.

Other conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, skin health and weight management may also benefit from increased omega-3 consumption. However, the science supporting these potential benefits is less established.

Unilever survey

The findings of Croda’s survey support earlier conclusions from a Unilever survey of Canadian adults, which found that most seniors seek omega-3 products but do not clearly understand the benefits of the ingredient.

Some 64 percent of Canadian seniors said they look for products that are rich in omega-3, and 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).

Omega-3 market

A report on the omega-3 market issued earlier this year by Packaged Facts estimated that omega-3 will become increasingly popular as an ingredient in fortified food and beverages.

The report valued the US omega-3 food and drink market at almost $5bn, a 34 percent increase since 2006. This reflects a reduction in growth as the market starts to mature, and compares to growth rates of 43, 71 and 105 percent in 2006, 2005 and 2004 respectively.

However, growth will remain strong at 32 percent (CAGR) to 2012, when sales are predicted to reach $8bn.

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