Development of foods enriched with omega-3 fatty acids

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Essential omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are known for their beneficial effects on health. They play a major role in the formation of heart, brain, and nerve cells and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

They are mainly found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, and salmon. Fish consumption of ca. 150 to 200 grams per week is necessary in order for the body to get an adequate quantity of omega-3 fatty acids. Actual fish consumption is far below this in most parts of Germany.

In order to improve the quantity of health-promoting fatty acids consumed in Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV has developed a method for enriching various foods with those fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids normally have a neutral odor. On contact with oxygen, however, an oxidation process starts immediately. The resulting degradation products have a fishy taste and smell. This degradation has made it difficult to utilize omega-3 fatty acids in food production up until now.

The Fraunhofer IVV approach protects the sensitive fatty acids against oxidation. The fatty acid molecules are surrounded by proteins and are emulsified with plant antioxidants and rapeseed oil. This prevents the omega-3 fatty acids coming into contact with oxygen and so they retain their tasteless and odor free properties over a long period. A variety of foods can be enriched with these beneficial fatty acids, without impairment of the taste or odor of the food.

A number of sausage products enriched with omega-3 fatty acids are already commercial available. Development work is underway to enrich other popular foods such as pizza, noodles, and bread with omega-3 fatty acids.