Clinical data shows that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are especially beneficial for individuals at risk for heart disease, stroke, immune response disorders and mental illness, lactating and pregnant women and infants. Traditionally, omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with fish oils, and most clinical studies center on the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The precursor of these fatty acids is a-linolenic acid, which is much more stable than the EPA and DHA present in fish oils. (See chart “Fatty Acid Stability.”) Furthermore, important fatty acids such as EPA and DHA in fish are destroyed when it is baked or fried.
The International Food Science Centre (IFSC, Lystrup, Denmark) has developed a nutritional oil blend, Nutridan, from vegetable oils that are naturally rich in a-linolenic acid. All the omega-3 fatty acids in Nutridan are a-linolenic acid from vegetable sources. The blend contains less than 30ppm of cholesterol, making it practically cholesterol-free. It is non-hydrogenated, contains no trans fatty acids, and is devoid of pesticides, heavy metals and GMOs.
It is now acknowledged that a-linolenic acid, through its downstream longer-chain homologue DHA, is essential for normal visual functions. Deficiency of a-linolenic acid in diets leads to a lowering of DHA in the brain, which may impact auditory, olfactory, learning and memory functions, appetite control, neuron size and nerve growth factor levels, notes Prof. Vijai Shukla, founder and president of IFSC.
One study, the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRIFT), focused research on the effects of a-linolenic acid in 12,000 men between 35 and 57 years who had a high risk of heart disease. The study found that risk of death from coronary heart diseases was lowest in subjects with the highest intakes of a-linolenic acid. Epidemiological studies and dietary trials in humans suggest that a-linolenic acid is a major cardio-protective nutrient. Dietary a-linolenic acid reduces inflammatory and lipid cardiovascular risk factors in hypercholesterolemic men and women, possibly by favorably changing vascular inflammation and endothelial dysfunction. Omega-3 fatty acids also have remarkable beneficial effects in treating psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar affective disorders, postpartum depression, hostility, homicide and aggression, schizophrenia and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders.
A key feature of Nutridan is its wide range of applications, such as baked products (e.g., breads, croissants, buns, cakes, biscuits and cookies), margarines and spreads, cheese, mayonnaise, salad dressings, snack bars, pet foods and animal feed. It has been used in various stir-fried and baked applications, and the oil analyzed after each preparation shows Nutridan's composition remains relatively unchanged during cooking and baking. (See chart “Fatty Acid Composition.”)