Omega-3 oils have long maintained the status of "good" fats because of their noted anti-inflammatory properties and negative association with decreased cardiovascular disease risk. But recently they surged to even greater popularity because of two important advances: First, research is beginning to unravel the key role that omega-3 fatty acids play in brain development and function. Second, advances in micro-encapsulation allow potentially fishy tasting oils to appear in almost any food with nary a hint of the sea.
Omega-3 oils are essential nutrients. In brain, the most abundant fat is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Imbedded in the neural of membranes, DHA is critical to the growth and function of nervous tissue, the transmission of information from one brain cell to another and protection from oxidative stress. According to a recent article published in the Journal of Nutrition (Jan, 2007) reduced levels of DHA in brain are associated with impaired cognitive and behavioral performance.
The levels are DHA in brain increase during the growth and development stages of life (especially pre-partum, infancy and early childhood), then decrease with age. However, levels are influenced by type and amount of fatty acids in the diet.
Recently, EPAX (www.epax.com) Lysaker, Norway, a world leader in the production of highly concentrated, marine-based omega-3, supplied its 1050 TG oil for a clinical trial on Alzheimer's disease. The study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (June 2007) showed that in carriers of a specific gene common to Alzheimer's, sufferers who received the omega-3 had reduced agitation symptoms. Moreover, those without the gene showed an improvement in symptoms of depression.
We obtain DHA both directly, by eating food rich in DHA, and indirectly by eating foods containing omega-3 the body converts to DHA. The best-known direct source is fish oil. Until recently, the way to get DHA was to eat fish several times per week, or to ingest fishy tasting oil. That changed with advances in micro-encapsulation.
The creation of nano-sized particles allows DHA to be suspended in virtually any medium without imparting a fishy odor or taste to the food. Such DHA also is digested without fishy aftertaste. Today, virtually any food or beverage can be your favorite source of DHA.
"To help people get the omega-3 their bodies need, we team up with various companies worldwide to put fish oil into their products without changing the taste or smell of the food," says Ian Lucas, executive vice president of global sales and marketing at Ocean Nutrition Canada Ltd. (www.ocean-nutrition.com), Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Ocean Nutrition supplies MEG-3 brand omega-3 EPA/DHA. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a precursor of DHA.
Puresource Inc. (www.puresource.ca), Guelph, Ontario, is Canada's largest supplier of natural and organic functional foods. The company adds MEG-3 to its new Verve brand Beverage Buddy, a powdered beverage mix added to water, milk or juice. Available in Strawberry Smoothie and Panama Punch, Beverage Buddy, supplies omega-3, protein and prebiotic fiber. "We decided to add MEG-3 powder to our drink mix because it was so easy to use and gave our product the added benefit of fish, without the fish," says Randy Betts, Verve brand manager at Puresource.
Ocean Nutrition also supplies MEG-3 to Danone Canada Inc. (www.danone.ca), Boucherville, Québec, for Danino Drinkable yogurt, the third yogurt product Danone has launched containing MEG-3. "We're excited to expand the Danino brand from traditional yogurts to drinkable yogurts. Now kids have two delicious ways to contribute to their daily requirement of both dairy and DHA to help them reach there full potential," says Calvin Hwang, Director of Marketing with Danone Canada.
If smoothies and yogurt don't fill your omega-3 quest, there's always chocolate. Les Truffes au Chocolat Inc. (www.strategis.ic.gc.ca), Calgary, Alberta adds MEG-3 to its entire O Trois line of chocolate. Each 45 g chocolate contains 100 mg of EPA/DHA from fish oil, but you'd never know it. "Our chocolate bars and fingers have the same great taste but they also have something a little extra…the added health benefits of EPA and DHA from fish oil." says Ralph Buchmuller, President and Master Chocolatier at Les Truffes au Chocolat.
Other concerns are combining chocolate and omega, including Anit Ltd. (www.anlit.biz), Tel Aviv, Israel. The supplement company is using candies and chocolates to segue into from pills and droppers as delivery media for omega from fish. Flora Inc. (www.florahealth.com), Lynden, Wash., is incorporating its Udo's brand omega from flax into Bija brand chocolate truffles at a healthy dose of 13 g of an omega 3, 6, and 9 blend per serving.
Seeds and Sea
Another Canadian company, Pizzey's Milling (www.meadowpure.com), Angusville, Manitoba, is bridging the divide between flax-sourced and fish-sourced omegas with its Meadowpure Ultra 3. It's a combination of ALA, DHA and EPA that is stable enough to be incorporated into baked goods without imparting discernible taste or odor. The company was just purchased by Glanbia PLC (www.glanbia.com) Kilkenny, Ireland.
You can also get your omegas with a hint of cranberry through Carver, Mass.-based Decas Botanical Synergies' (www.decasbotanical.com) OmegaCran oil. Derived from cranberry seeds via a cold-press expeller process, and without solvents or chemicals. The omega-enhanced result is high in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It's also rich in omega-9 and tocotrienols (vitamin E).