Home » NutraSolutions' New Products Annual - CLA/Omega-3s - March 2007
The nutritional lipids arena continues to be dominated by the omegas. Within the family, product developers are looking at the benefits provided by docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) from marine sources and those of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from plant sources. While cost often governs why a specific ingredient is chosen for certain applications, nutritional attributes also play a role. The following summarizes recent related published research in scientific literature that supports benefits provided by each category of omega-3s, followed by new product activity and trends in the marketplace
The role of omega-3s in cardiovascular risk prevention continues to dominate omega-3 research. A recent trial conducted in Holland with 37 mildly hypercholesterolemic elderly subjects demonstrated that EPA/DHA-supplemented diets increased LDL cholesterol and apoB levels in subjects, where no increases were observed with ALA supplementation. Researchers did report a favorable increase in tissue factor pathway inhibitor, associated with EPA/DHA supplementation. This appears to refute conclusions from researchers published in Atherosclerosis (July 2005), in which a fish oil-supplemented diet “produced predictable changes (reductions) in plasma lipids and small, dense LDLs that were not reproduced by the ALA-enriched diet.”
A systematic review of research examining the role of omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular disease was published in August 2006. Researchers concluded “evidence appears strong for a beneficial effect of very long-chain omega-3 fatty acids intakes on cardiovascular disease risk in secondary, but not in primary, prevention.” Researchers could not conclude the same for ALA, due to lack of high-quality evidence.
Alternatively, research conducted among hypercholesterolemic subjects, consuming either an olive oil or walnut (a good source of ALA) supplementation to a fatty meal, showed the walnut-supplemented fatty meal resulted in a 24% increase in brachial artery blood flow. The olive oil-supplemented diet showed a 36% decrease. While the trial was diminutive, the results suggested important implications for ALA in decreasing cardiovascular risk. Additionally, walnuts may actually help reduce the effects of a high saturated fat diet, which cannot be demonstrated to the same extent by olive oil. Like olive oil, walnuts are an important component of the Mediterranean diet, but enjoy less exposure.
In the area of cognitive health, results of a small study published in the Archives of Neurology suggest that omega-3s may play a role in slowing mental decline among people with a very mild form of the disease. Following a 12-month supplementation period of DHA and EPA, researchers were able to show statistically different results in cognitive function among those study participants with a mild form of Alzheimer’s versus those at a similar stage in the disease who had received supplementation for only six months. Participants at a more advanced stage in the disease did not demonstrate the same results.