Jumping on the omega-3 bandwagon : distinguishing the role of long-chain and short-chain omega-3 fatty acids
Turchini, Giovanni M., Nichols, Peter D., Barrow, Colin and Sinclair, Andrew J. 2012, Jumping on the omega-3 bandwagon : distinguishing the role of long-chain and short-chain omega-3 fatty acids, Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, vol. 52, no. 9, pp. 795-803.
Omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LC-PUFA) are almost unanimously recognized for their health benefits, while only limited evidence of any health benefit is currently available specifically for the main precursor of these fatty acids, namely α-linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n-3). However, both the n-3 LC-PUFA and the short-chain C18 PUFA (i.e., ALA) are commonly referred to as “omega-3” fatty acids, and it is difficult for consumers to recognize this difference. A current gap of many food labelling legislations worldwide allow products containing only ALA and without n-3 LC-PUFA to be marketed as “omega-3 source” and this misleading information can negatively impact the ability of consumers to choose more healthy diets. Within the context of the documented nutritional and health promoting roles of omega-3 fatty acids, we briefly review the different metabolic fates of dietary ALA and n-3 LC-PUFA. We also review food sources rich in n-3 LC-PUFA, some characteristics of LC-PUFA and current industry and regulatory trends. A further objective is to present a case for regulatory bodies to clearly distinguish food products containing only ALA from foods containing n-3 LC-PUFA. Such information, when available, would then avoid misleading information and empower consumers to make a more informed choice in their food purchasing behavior.
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