Ideal ingredient calling card: omega-3s

Ideal ingredient calling card: omega-3s

Everything you need to know about omega-3s, nutritionally essential polyun-saturated fatty acids, including EPA, DHA and ALA. Want even more information on omega-3s?

What is it

  • Nutritionally essential polyun-saturated fatty acids
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

Omega-3s from fish oilWhere they’re found

  • Oils from algae, krill, fish and plants (flax, chia, walnuts)
  • Cold water oily fish: salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines
  • Marine sources: krill and algae
  • Vegetarian sources: flax, walnuts, chia, soybean, algae, cranberry seeds

Food or medicine?

  • Health benefits were discovered in 1970s in Greenland Inuits
  • Everybody needs it – tied to heart and brain and cell functions
  • Supplementation because humans don’t make omega-3s or omega-6s
  • Potential to correct neurodegenerative diseases and oxidative stress-related aging
  • Omacor/Lovaza & Epadel – approved pharmaceuticals
  • In the pipeline: Generics from Par, Teva, Apotex, Chiesi, Instituto Biochemique, Amarin, & Resolvyx

Manufacturing constraints

  • Highly susceptible to oxidation – best handled cold
  • Tend to easily develop fishy odor and flavor
  • Vulnerability to heat restricts application in manufacture of prepared meals
  • Fluid applications protect encapsulants from shock
  • Cost major deterrent for food manufacturers

Market drivers

  • Consumers think they’re good for you
  • Babies need them, so do expecting mothers
  • People accept its cardiovascular benefits
  • Fear of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Growth in private label
  • Polarization of markets – pharma-grade and budget

Physiological effects

  • Anti-cancer effects particularly breast, colon and prostate cancer
  • Significant protection against cardiovascular disease
  • Studies show protection of immune function at all ages
  • Delay or prevent cognitive and neurological deterioration
  • Anti-inflammatory action may translate into clinical effects

Demographic dosages

  • Adults: 250mg/day EPA+DHA
  • Kids: 250mg/day DPA+DHA
  • Older infants: 50–100mg/day DHA for visual development
  • Pregnant: 100–200mg DHA/day

Surprising fact

Dietary Guidelines 2010 note low seafood consumption but fail to address EPA and DHA consumption

Resource: Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED,

More information about omega-3s, including trends and insider industry information is included in our Ingredient Intelligence Monograph report.

Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., is a principal at Corvus Blue, a Chicago-based food science and nutrition firm that specializes in competitive intelligence and expert witness services. Contact her at [email protected] or 312.951.5810.

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