Omega-3 fatty acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. One of these is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This compound is not abundant in Western diets, but has been shown to have a number of health benefits associated with its intake. These include support for a healthy pregnancy; supporting normal brain and eye development in infants and children; helping to maintain good heart health in children and adults; and helping to maintain normal cognitive function in adults.

The most common dietary sources of DHA are fatty fish and organ meats, said Ruben Abril, Ph.D., director, Ingredient Formulation and Technical Support, Martek, during an Applications Lab at the 2007Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminar--CHICAGO. Martek has gone directly to the source and develops its DHA from microalgae (which is what fish eat to get their DHA). The company has branded the DHA ingredient, life’sDHA™. This is a patented, vegetable-based source of DHA that will not compromise a finished product’s taste, texture or aroma. life’sDHA has been added to foods and beverages, perinatal products and infant formulas around the world. Currently, there are 24 infant formula licensees with products in over 70 countries. 

According to Martek, life’sDHA is more stable than competitive omega-3 oils (see chart). It also remains chemically stable during many processing operations. It may be used in products that are thermally processed in high temperature/short time, ultra-high temperature and batch systems, and it may be baked, extruded or cooked. Some 85-100% of DHA is recovered following most food processing applications; also, DHA recovery remains constant throughout the shelflife of the food product.

Laboratory work at Martek shows that life’sDHA may also be used in dairy products such as yogurt, milk, cheese, cheese spreads and ice cream. For example, yogurt may be fortified so as to contain 35-150mg DHA per serving. For this application, the DHA oil is added to a small part of milk. This portion is heated to 50°C and also subjected to high-shear mixing. The DHA-fortified milk portion is then added back to the whole milk batch--either at the injection port or through an in-line mixer. Trial runs show that analytical recovery of DHA in yogurt is consistently high: the average running about 95%.

Products formulated with the DHA ingredient have shelflife, stability, flavor and texture comparable to controls. The advantage of this product over other omega-3 products is that it can be subjected to more intense processing conditions. life’sDHA also remains stable during storage, so it remains available to consumers.

The product also may be used in meat products such as ground beef and boneless hams. As in the dairy products, life’sDHA has no adverse effects on products in which it is used. Stability and appearance are unaffected.

life’sDHA is a vegetarian source of DHA that has greater stability than omega-3 fatty acids from fish or meat. It may be used in meats, dairy and other products, without adversely affecting a product’s quality. This is, in large part, because of its stability in a wide range of cooking processes.

For more information:
Martek Biosciences Corporation, Boulder, Colo.