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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Omega-3 Fortified Foods and Supplements Effectively Improve Nutritional Status

By Michael McBurney

The membranes of cells in our bodies require long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) to function normally. Based on typical dietary patterns, recommendations are to increase intake of LCPUFA and limit saturated and trans fatty acids.

With the exception of coconut and palm kernel oil,  vegetable fats tend to be richer sources of LCPUFA then saturated fatty acids. There are two families of LCPUFA : the omega-3s and omega-6s. In Western countries, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is ~15:1. Increasing omega-3 intake to achieve a more balanced ratio may reduce risk of chronic disease.

Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, swordfish) have more omega-3 than omega-6 (~2:1 ratio) so they can be an important means to achieve a more desirable balance. Some fish may contain methylmercury or other harmful chemicals at sufficiently high levels to be a concern. An alternative approach to eating fish regularly is to use foods enriched or fortified with purified omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish or algae.

Using a 4 week double-blinded intervention with 3 groups, Hinriksdottir and colleagues find similar effects of fortified foods and supplements in increasing omega-3 status. Three groups were studied:  A placebo control provided 6 conventional meals/week and 6 sachets of placebo powder. Group 2 were provided 6 conventional meals fortified with liquid EPA and DHA oils and 6 sachets of placebo powder. Group 3 were provided 6 conventional meals and 6 powder sachets containing microencapsulated EPA and DHA.

Both treatments, fortified foods  (group 2) and dietary supplement (group 3) provided 1.75g EPA and DHA daily. Seventy-seven subjects completed the study, more than 2/3 were women. Both approaches significantly increased whole blood fatty acid percentages. The results did not differ between those participants consuming fortified foods or dietary supplements. Upon completion, the average whole-blood DPA and EPA percent fatty acids were ~3.67% and 1.95%, respectively.

Bottomline, the EPA and DHA content of our body can be increased by consuming these nutrients, regardless of whether we prefer to choose fortified foods or dietary supplements.

Main Citation

Hinriksdottir HH, Jonsdottir VL, Vveinsdottir K, Martinsdottir E, Ramel A. Bioavailability of long-chain n-3 fatty acids from enriched meals and from microencapsulated powder. 2014 EJCN doi: 10.1038;ejcn.2014.250

Other Citations

Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. 2005 Biochem Pharmacotherapy doi: 10.1016/S0753-3322(02)00253-6

Rymer C, Gibbs RA, Givens DI. Comparison of algal and fish sources on the oxidative stability of poultry meat and its enrichment with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. 2009 Poultry Sci doi: 10.3382/ps.2009-00232

Von Schacky C. Convenience drinks fortified with n-3 fatty acids: A systematic review.2013 Handbook of Food Fortification and Health doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-7110-3_8

Kuratko CN, Salem Jr N. Docosahexaenoic acid from algal oil. 2013 Eur J Lipid Sci doi: 10.1002/ejlt.201300060