During the recent Institute of Food Technologists (IFT, Chicago) annual meeting held in New Orleans, a group of industry professionals learned about the converging forces that are driving growth for omega-3 EPA/DHA from fish oil as a major new ingredient in food products.

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA found in fish oil, soon are likely to be seen as one of the biggest nutrients for fortification of food products in the U.S., second only to calcium. According to research summarized by Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. (Dartmouth, N.S.) 25% of the U.S. population does not eat fish, American diets are too high in omega-6 fatty acids, and there is a lack of physician recommendations, all resulting in a serious deficiency of omega-3 in the U.S. diet.

Dr. Bruce Holub, professor in the department of human biology and nutritional sciences at the University of Guelph (Ontario), explained that the average American consumes approximately 130mg EPA and DHA per day, when most scientists recommend between 500mg and 1,000mg per day. He added that omega-3 is physiologically necessary for the brain and eyes and that the chemistry is such that the plant source of omega-3 (ALA) does not provide the same benefits to the brain as the EPA and DHA found in fish oil.

The Magic of Omega-3s

According to Dr. Holub, infant formula supplemented with DHA benefits baby's visual maturation. DHA also shows promise in reducing post-partum depression. Children with developmental problems have shown improvement after omega-3 supplementation for three months. A summary of studies shows that approximately 500mg/day of EPA and DHA (the equivalent of two to four servings of fatty fish per week) correlated with a 25% decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Flavor and odor issues when supplementing foods with fish oil have limited their introduction, explains Ian Lucas, vice president of marketing and new product development at Ocean Nutrition Canada. When fish oil comes into contact with air, it oxidizes, causing flavor and odor problems.

After 15 years of trying to put omega-3 in foods but encountering these organoleptic challenges, Ocean Nutrition has introduced MEG-3™ brand omega-3 EPA/DHA food and dietary supplement ingredients. MEG-3 is encapsulated, preventing the fish oil from coming into contact with air during processing, and eliminating the flavor and odor in foods containing the ingredient.

New products utilizing the MEG-3 technology include the launch of Arnold Smart & Healthy™ bread by George Weston Bakeries Inc. (Greenwich, Conn.), featuring whole wheat bread supplemented with MEG-3. Another example is eggs enhanced with omega-3. And in Spain, a milk product has been successfully supplemented with fish oil.

For more information:
Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd., Kait Sullivan
902-480-3238, www.oceannutrition.com