Omega-3 ingredients from varying sources offer support for a wide range of health implications.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in food and dietary supplements provide a wide range of benefits for human health. Offering support for heart health, cognition, childhood development, joint health, eye support, and more, omega-3s have made their place in the nutraceutical space as a scientifically-backed ingredient for overall health.
According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2017 Annual Survey on Dietary Supplements, 23% of male supplement users and 20% of female supplement users take omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Meanwhile, Grand View Research predicted the global omega-3 supplement market will reach $57.07 billion by the year 2025.
Here’s a look at where these nutritious fatty acids come from, and how they support growing demand for omega-3 products …
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, anchovy, and albacore tuna are rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises consuming fatty fish at least twice (two servings) a week in order to achieve optimal omega-3 levels. For those who are lacking fish in their diet or are struggling with cardiovascular disease, AHA recommends seeking out the aid of omega-3 dietary supplements under the care of a physician.
The Mayo Clinic noted unsaturated fat in fatty fish has been linked to cholesterol reduction. Omega-3s in fish have also been shown to reduce inflammation, which can be a serious contributor to damaged blood vessels, heart disease, and stroke.
Cod liver has been used to fortify human health for centuries, with its first use in medicine dating back to 1789 when it was used to treat rheumatism.
Extracted from the liver of Atlantic cod, cod liver oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins A and D.
The tiny crustacean krill is rich in omega-3 DHA and EPA. Krill oil is unique in that its EPA and DHA are bound to phospholipids, whereas other marine oils are in the triglyceride form. Phospholipids are more easily dispersed in water and stomach acid, leading to fewer “fishy burps”—a common complaint from fish-oil users.
Grand View Research predicted the global krill oil market will reach $709.4 million by 2025, largely thanks to “increasing awareness regarding omega-3 deficiency and growing demand for dietary supplements.”
Indigenous to the shores of New Zealand, green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) provides a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to furan fatty acids that act as potent antioxidants.
This combination of fatty acids is known to inhibit inflammation. As a result, green-lipped mussel is often used for joint health, with research indicating its benefits for managing osteoarthritis.
Experts suggest microalgae is the best and most efficient form of vegan omega-3s for those avoiding the consumption of fish or crustaceans.
While nuts and seeds offer alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which must then be converted to EPA and DHA by the body, algae provide a plant-based omega-3 already in the EPA and DHA form.
While converting ALA to EPA and DHA is not the most efficient way to get omega-3s into the body, ALA does offer a host of health benefits. ALA from foods like chia, hemp, and flax have been linked to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes.
Nuts and seeds rich in ALA are also valuable sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Genetically modified (GM) plants are being explored as a sustainable way to source omega-3s for human nutrition, without overextending the supply provided by Mother Nature. Those advocating for GM crops providing omega-3s see it as a way to protect marine life while offering a way to limit levels of contamination from heavy metals, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in traditional fish oil.
Cargill and BASF are co-developing a renewable, plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of canola oil. Meanwhile, Rothamsted Research in the U.K. is experimenting with harvesting genome edited (GE) Camelina sativa as a source of supplemental omega-3s.