Oils and Fats News August 2008

Functional Foods & Edible Oils – The Future

Please check the website for updated speaker information for the conference on 12 &13 November.  Register early so that you do not miss out on the Earlybird rate which closes on 21 September 2008.

Oils & Specialist Group AGM

The Mid-Winter Social and AGM will be held this year at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Westhaven on Thursday, 21 August. For booking please contact Ruth,

Omega-3 ALA – overlooked and misunderstood?

With marine omega-3 EPA and DHA often stealing the spotlight, ALA from plants has been somewhat ignored, but a new review reinforces ALA’s unique and valuable benefits.

The health benefits associated with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) consumption include cardiovascular effects, neuro-protection, a counter to the inflammation response, and benefits against autoimmune disease.

However, the longer-chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) have received more study from scientists and more attention from the consumers.

“For many years, the importance of the only member of the omega 3 family considered to be essential, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), has been overlooked,” states a special article published in this month’s Nutrition Reviews.

The review, by Aliza Stark and Ram Reifen from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Michael Crawford from the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University, is concise, timely and necessary as consumer awareness and interest in omega-3 grows.

Apparent confusion and misunderstanding manifested itself recently when the British consumer watchdog Which? published a report calling for better distinction between the omega-3 fatty acids on products.

The University of Oxford’s Dr Alex Richardson told Which?: “The type of omega-3 found in oily fish is the best kind. There’s no question that EPA and DHA are vital for our hearts, brains and immune systems.

“But some food labels are muddling together things that have different biological effects. Omega 3 from vegetarian sources is very different and does not have the same health benefits.”

But not having the same health benefits does not mean lesser health benefits. However, the new review states: “It is important to remember that of the omega-3 fatty acids, ALA is the parent molecule, and greater attention should be paid to its independent physiological function.”

Omega-3 versus omega-6

Competition for the 6-desaturase enzyme in the metabolism of both ALA and linoleic acid may have an important role to play in the inflammatory response. By increasing the intake of ALA, the 6-desaturase available will produce less arachidonic acid from linoleic acid, so the argument goes.

“It is thought that a higher relative intake of omega-6 fatty acids increases production of arachidonic acid (20:4n-6), which in turn is used to produce pro-thrombotic and proinflammatory omega-6 metabolites,” wrote the researchers.

“Metabolites of omega-3 origin are anti-inflammatory and anti-arrhythmic. A high omega-6:omega-3 ratio is thought to promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases,” they added.

Interestingly, dietary recommendations currently exist for ALA, but are not universally agreed for EPA or DHA.

“The fact that several major scientific and medical associations have published nutritional guidelines including recommendations specifically for ALA emphasizes its perceived importance in health promotion and disease prevention,” wrote Stark, Crawford, and Reifen.

Omega-3 ALA: Industry reacts to review

Following publication of this review industry sources have reacted.

The review was welcomed by ALA omega-3 suppliers in North America. Linda Pizzey, CEO, Pizzey’s Nutritionals (recently acquired by Glanbia Nutritionals) said the authors should be “complimented on their timely and very thorough review of the scientific controversies surrounding the much maligned ALA.

Dr. John Minatelli, senior VP business development at Florida-based Valensa International, called the article a “refreshing and comprehensive review”.

He said “We believe that there is a growing level of scientific data supporting the idea that ALA in and of itself is biologically significant for two key reasons:

ALA effectively and efficiently competes with LA for delta 6-desaturase conversion to downstream metabolites with an expected lowering of the related arachidonic acid based metabolites that would otherwise produce a pre-disposal to a highly pro-inflammatory state, and:

ALA is very likely a safer way of supplementing EPA levels in man than direct use of EPA found in fish oils because of EPA’s well documented antithrombotic effects in man.  Most physicians have already recognized this issue and have taken their pre-operative patients off fish oil supplementation well in advance of major surgical procedures to avoid excessive bleeding.”

He also said that results of a clinical study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2006 (Vol. 136, pp. 83-87) did a “good job of addressing and debunking the assertion of people in our industry that ALA does not convert well to EPA, but more importantly indicates that the conversion of ALA to EPA and DPA can occur even when very high levels of LA are present in plasma, a fact that many scientists do not yet fully appreciate.”

Fish oil perspective

On the other hand, David Cai, PhD, research manager/ principal scientist with Cognis Nutrition and Health, who offer marine-sourced omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, told this website: “The benefits are indisputable marine-sourced omega-3 fatty acids which are long chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) versus the short chain omega-3 fatty acids from plant source (ALA).

“Without taking EPA and DHA from the diet or fish oil, humans must convert the short chain omega-3 fatty acid, such as ALA, to the long chained EPA and DHA before it can be used by the body. Unfortunately, the conversion rate is very inefficient in humans (approximately two per cent), thus, an unrealistically high consumption level of ALA has to be taken to achieve the same proven health benefits of EPA and DHA.

This is not the case for marine- sourced long chain omega-3 fatty acids in which only 200-500 mg/day of EPA and DHA showed promising health benefits,” he said.

Source: Nutrition Reviews Volume 66, Issue 6, Pages 326-332, doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00040.x
“Update on alpha-linolenic acid”
Authors: A.H. Stark, M.A Crawford, R. Reife

Krill Oil

A growing source of omega-3 in the form of phospholipids coupled with astaxanthan antioxidant is becoming available on the world market. A recent review reports that this oil was reported to lower both TAG and LDL cholesterol in clinical trials.

Lipid Technology (2008) Vol 20, (5) 108-111

Dr Richard Collins

Blending cardiology with cooking

If heart healthy jambalaya sounds too good to be true, think again. Careful selection of ingredients can make any food heart healthy, without affecting the flavor, says Dr Richard Collins, MD, the Cooking Cardiologist.

The IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo took place last month, and health and wellness certainly featured heavily around the show floor.

With heart disease the number one killer in Europe and the US, ingredients suppliers and food manufacturers are continuing to react to consumers concerns. Indeed, according to a recent Business Insights report, sales for heart health food and drinks are set to reach a total value of $7.7bn in Europe and the US by 2010.

Formulating foods with heart healthy ingredients like plant sterols and omega-3 fatty acids can easily be done, with care taken to avoid trans-fatty acids and saturated fats.

“My message is diet by deprivation doesn’t work. Don’t give up what you like to eat, just change the recipe,” said Dr Collins
Dr Collins, a fellow in the American College of Cardiology and director of wellness at the South Denver Heart Center, said products fortified with plant sterols include olive oil, yoghurt, buttery spreads, and cheeses, and that it is easy to combine these in order to achieve the two grams per day supported by the US National Cholesterol Education Program.

Plant sterols are one of the few ingredients to have an FDA unqualified health claim.

Numerous clinical trials carried out in controlled settings led researchers to report that daily consumption of 1.5 to 3 grams of phytosterols/-stanols can reduce total cholesterol levels by eight to 17 per cent, representing a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cooking demonstration

Attendees at the IFT annual meeting and food were treated to a demonstration by Dr Collins at the Cognis Nutrition & Health booth showing just how heart healthy ingredients can be incorporated into foods without compromising on taste.

Although the majority of his demonstrations and classes are for consumers, manufacturers do take an interest in his recipes and ideology. “Manufacturers like to know what I do, and there are people in the food industry looking at it,” he said.

His recipes, many of which are featured in a new cookbook, show how foods can be formulated to contain a range of heart healthy ingredients.

“These recipes are intriguing because manufacturers need to understand what happens in the kitchen,” he said.

In addition to jambalaya, a super-smoothie containing several ingredients with cardiovascular benefits like fiber, protein, fish oil, and calcium, and a sweet potato pie made with Splenda instead of sugar, will also be on the menu.

“In the future I think you are going to see more combinations of ingredients,” he said. “And they will work synergistically. Plant sterols in conjunction with fish oil have an additive effect.”

Plant sterols can be taken in combination with statins, he added. “This combination can boost the effectiveness by eight to 15 per cent,” he said.

Treatment versus prevention

Dr Collins’ transformation into the cooking cardiologist started in 1993, when he was based in Nebraska – a state at the heart of the US beef industry. He was confronted with heart patients who no longer wanted surgery to correct their problems but preferred to reverse heart disease by diet.

“This is not an easy thing to do in the beef capital of the US,” he said.

Reacting to his patients’ needs, he decided to move away from interventional medicine and embrace preventive medicine.

“I am no longer a fire fighter,” he says. “I’m more of a forest ranger now.”

Get Smart About What You Eat And You Might Actually Improve Your Intelligence
(Or at least you end up with intelligent gerbils)

ScienceDaily (July 3, 2008) — New research findings published online in The FASEB Journal provide more evidence that if we get smart about what we eat, our intelligence can improve. According to MIT scientists, dietary nutrients found in a wide range of foods from infant formula to eggs increase brain synapses and improve cognitive abilities.

“I hope human brains will, like those of experimental animals, respond to this kind of treatment by making more brain synapses and thus restoring cognitive abilities,” said Richard Wurtman, MD, senior researcher on the project.

In the study, gerbils were given various combinations of three compounds needed for healthy brain membranes: choline, found in eggs; uridine monophosphate (UMP) found in beets; and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in fish oils. Other gerbils were given none of these to serve as a baseline. Then they were checked for cognitive changes four weeks later.

The scientists found that the gerbils given choline with UMP and/or DHA showed cognitive improvements in tasks thought to be relevant to gerbils, such as navigating mazes. After these tests were concluded, the researchers dissected the mouse brains for a biological cause for the improvement. They found biochemical evidence that there was more than the usual amount of brain synapse activity, which was consistent with behaviors indicating higher intelligence.

“Now that we know how to make gerbils smarter,” said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, “it’s not too far a stretch to hope that people’s intelligence can also be improved. Quite frankly, this can’t happen soon enough, as every environmentalist, advocate of evolution and war opponent will attest.”

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “Get Smart About What You Eat And You Might Actually Improve Your Intelligence.” ScienceDaily 3 July 2008. 3 July 2008 <­ /releases/2008/07/080702150706.htm>.

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