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New guidelines boost fish oil category

New guidelines for Americans to increase fish intake are set to benefit fish oil suppliers and product manufacturers. The US Department of Agriculture?s (USDA) five yearly dietary guidelines, issued in January, advised consumers to double their oily fish consumption, citing evidence linking fish consumption with a reduction in cardiovascular disease.

While the guidance makes no reference to dietary supplements consumption, fish oil suppliers are looking to maximise a more favourable market in a country where fresh fish consumption is relatively low. Improvements in fish oil powder formulations mean consumers are able to obtain fish oils in an increasing number of foods from breads to beverages to bars that are being fortified with fish oils with few taste or smell issues.

With the Food and Drug Administration endorsing heart health claims for foods and supplements containing oily fish with essential fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), fish oils, along with fibre, are poised to be the buzz nutrients of 2005. Evidence also suggests strong links between DHA and brain health, so it is commonly added to infant formulae.

?Experts recommend 500-900mg per day of EPA and DHA, and currently, average consumption by Americans is less than 100mg per day,? said Dr Colin Barrow, vice president of R&D at Nova Scotia-based fish oil supplier, Ocean Nutrition Canada. This nutritional deficiency exists because Americans are not eating enough oily fish like sardines, anchovies and salmon, which are rich in these heart- and brain-healthy nutrients.?

The average American would double consumption to 496mg per day by following the USDA guidelines. More than a quarter consume no fish at all. Given Americans? reluctance to change their diets — one study found nine out of 10 favourite foods remained unchanged between 1990 and 2000 — fish oil supplements, and popular foods and beverages fortified with fish oils are an obvious means to bridge the dietary gap.

David Lewis, North American business unit manager at Illinois-based Lipid Nutrition, was ebullient about the USDA action. ?It should empower consumers in getting more information on the benefits of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and help them eat healthier,? he said. ?The public understands the correlation between omega-3s and fish consumption.?Indeed, consumer?awareness of LC omega-3s is at an all-time high right now. Many food manufacturers realise this and are formulating products with LC-omega-3 fatty acids?for the market.?

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