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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(9):795-803. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2010.509553.

Jumping on the omega-3 bandwagon: distinguishing the role of long-chain and short-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

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1
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Warrnambool, VIC, Australia. giovanni.turchini@deakin.edu.au

Abstract

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.

PMID:
22698270
DOI:
10.1080/10408398.2010.509553
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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