Food matches supplements for omega-3 dosing: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

The omega-3 market is estimated to be worth over $8 billion
The omega-3 market is estimated to be worth over $8 billion

Related tags: Fish oil, Omega-3 fatty acid, Nutrition

Consuming omega-3 via capsules or fortified foods produces equal increases in blood levels of the fatty acids, says a new study from Norway.

Fish oil supplements produced similar increases in omega-3s as enriched fruit juice and fish pâté, according to data published in the British Journal of Nutrition​.

“Fruit juice and fish pâté were safe, well tolerated and highly palatable, representing feasible alternatives to meet the nutritional recommendations,”​ report the researchers, led by Dr Bente Kirkhus from the Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research.

“Fruit juice can be advised for individuals who do not favor fish or fish oil capsules.”

Market boost

The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have been well communicated to consumers and this has led to a buoyant market for omega-3 products, recently valued at almost $8 billion (€5.57 billion) by Packaged Facts.

According to the report, the market grew 17% from 2009 and such growth is predicted to continue, said the market researcher.

The US dominates with sales of $4bn (€2.78bn) in foods and drinks compared to $1.3bn (€900m) for dietary supplements, with much of the food and beverage figure accounted for by omega-3 fortified infant foods and formulas.

New study

The results of Dr Kirkhus and her co-workers support both supplements and fortified foods as an omega-3 source.

The researchers recruited 159 healthy men and women to participate in their study. The volunteers were randomized to consume three fish oil capsules, 34 grams of fish pâté, or 500 ml of omega-3-fortifed fruit juice for seven weeks. All the interventions provided a daily omega-3 dose of one gram of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid). A fourth group received no intervention and acted as a control group.

Results showed that blood levels of omega-3 increased equally in all the intervention groups, compared with the controls.

EPA increased in the range of 113 to 145%, while DHA increased from 31 to 50%.

“Differences between the groups were not significant, indicating that fish oil capsules, enriched fruit juice and fish pâté represent equivalent sources of dietary EPA and DHA,”​ wrote the researchers.

“The assumption that fish intake is more effective in increasing plasma levels of EPA and DHA than fish oil was not confirmed in the present study.”

Good news

Commenting on the study's findings, Harry Rice, PhD, V.P., regulatory & scientific affairs for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) told NutraIngredients-USA: "From a functional perspective, the study results, albeit not surprising to me, are good news for individuals looking for an alternative to taking supplement every day.

"Also, the results should provide confidence for innovative companies that are thinking about entering the market with a functional food formulated with long-chain omega-3s,"​ added Dr Rice.

Who’s who

The study’s researchers were affiliated with the Norwegian Institute of Food, Mills DA, University of Tromsø, Link Medical Research AS, Aker BioMarine Antarctic AS, Oslo University Hospital, Akershus University Hospital, Uppsala University, Université d'Auvergne (France), and Denomega Nutritional Oils.

The study was funded by Denomega, Aker BioMarine, Mills DA and Skanemejerier.

Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, FirstView Article​, DOI: 10.1017/S0007114511004508
“Effects of similar intakes of marine n-3 fatty acids from enriched food products and fish oil on cardiovascular risk markers in healthy human subjects”
​Authors: B. Kirkhus, A. Lamglait, K-E. Eilertsen, E. Falch, T. Haider, H. Vik, N. Hoem, T-A. Hagve, S. Basu, E. Olsen, I. Seljeflot, L. Nyberg, E. Elind, S.M. Ulven

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