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EFA Essentials

Albion Minerals®

As consumers become more educated, ingredient suppliers and manufacturers are creating products that address their concerns.

It is widely known that EFAs (essential fatty acids) are “essential” because they cannot be produced by the human body and must be obtained by diet or supplementation. Countless studies have been done on how EFAs benefit a number of the body’s systems including heart, joint, immune health, etc. And as consumers learn about the many benefits that EFAs offer, they often add omega-3 rich foods to their daily routine. In fact, a report published by Allied Market Research, titled, “Omega-3 Market – Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2014-2022,” found that the omega-3 market is expected to reach $6,955 million by 2022 with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 14.9 percent from 2016 to 2022.

“Proprietary GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) research, noted that the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) omega-3 market in 2017 at the raw materials level was $1.25 billion (U.S.) in value on a global basis, up 5.0 percent from 2016, with oils going into supplements making up 58 percent of that,” noted Chris Gearheart, director, member communications & engagement for GOED in Utah.

In addition, the Allied Market Research report also found that global ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) market has great potential as compared to DHA and EPA as consumers constantly look for alternatives of fish oil, as the world ALA omega-3 market accounted for more than $234 million in 2015. In addition, North America dominated the world ALA omega-3 market, in terms of revenue, generating $96 million in 2015.

“The fatty acid market continues to be strong, particularly for the omega-3 fatty acids, due to the wide range of health benefits associated with them; and in recent months there have been several noteworthy developments, both positive and negative,” said Nena Dockery, technical services manager for Missouri-based Stratum Nutrition. “From a positive perspective, not only has the number of published research studies into the health advantages of omega fatty acids increased, but so has the number of health areas benefited by fatty acid supplementation.”

Hugh C. Welsh, president and general counsel for New Jersey-based DSM North America added that there is a huge body of evidence to demonstrate the role and positive impact that essential fatty acids can have in heart, brain, eye and maternal health. “Put simply, DHA and EPA help to keep some of the body’s most important organs functioning and healthy at every life stage,” he explained. “It is the healthy benefits of DHA and EPA that perhaps offer the most potential to functional food, beverage and dietary supplement manufacturers; however, as we have recently seen, there is an increased need for transparency, quality, and traceability in the industry. Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of the importance to source ingredients in a sustainable manner.”

According to Gretchen Vannice, MS, RDN, head of global nutrition education for Ohio-based AlaskOmega, a large research study that followed more than 8,000 adults for an average of approximately five years (4.9 years) was presented at the American Heart Association meeting on November 10, 2018. “This study, called the REDUCE-IT trial found that high EPA omega-3 (4 grams ethyl ester EPA/day) reduced risk by approximately 25 percent for several cardiac events, such as fatal and non-fatal heart attack and stroke, in adults taking statin medications to lower LDL (low-density lipaprotein)-cholesterol,” she explained.

“This study adds more evidence to the existing body of scientific research that EPA omega-3 from fish and fish oil saves human lives, is not only safe to take with statin medications but adds significant and measurable health benefits, and a good safety profile,” Vannice added.

Addressing Concerns

Today’s consumers are savvy—they want to be sure that every purchase they make is a quality one that meets their criteria for quality, transparency, etc. And it is up to ingredient suppliers and manufacturers to deliver on these expectations. “Our research suggests that there is a rising consumer concern with respect to safety, quality and traceability of ingredients,” said Welsh. “Consumers trust the brands they buy, which means food manufacturers need to deliver on that trust. Safe ingredients are key to this, and the ingredients manufacturers have a vital role to play.”

Katrin Berntsen, director of communications with Aker BioMarine in Norway agreed, noting that consumers want to know all of the expected benefits from products and they also want to know where the ingredients are coming from. Manufacturers should always be transparent and consistent in their messaging and make education a priority.

“Ingredients that are sustainable and traceable are becoming the ‘norm’ with consumers, so it’s important that companies show the credibility of their ingredients,” she added. “Education is key, and it’s important across the whole supply chain. Aker BioMarine maintains a 100 percent traceable supply chain so consumers, retailers and manufacturers alike can see each step in the krill production process.”

The company is also making it a priority to promote industry responsibility by employing effective sustainability practices through the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies (ARK). According to Berntsen, this includes safeguarding the “buffer zones” around breeding colonies of penguins, to protect Antarctic wildlife and supporting the scientific and political process for the creation of a network of large-scale marine protected areas in the Antarctic, including areas in which krill companies currently operate.

DSM has committed to reducing its carbon footprint through improved production processes. Welsh noted that the company put significant efforts into improving the efficacy of food ingredient production within all levels of the industry. “We invest heavily in developing products that help reduce the eco-footprint and continually strive to reduce energy consumption and the environmental impact of our activities while optimizing land and resource use,” he said. “To ensure safety and quality, we have invested in robust internal auditing processes ensuring that ingredients can be tracked and found quickly.”

For example, the company supports a renewable, sustainable environment by sourcing fish for MEG-3 oils from regulated fisheries where equipment, practices and procedures are in place to protect fish stocks. “The fish oil we use is sourced from a variety of wild fish species and is a byproduct of either the fishmeal or edible canning industries,” Welsh said. “No fish are caught for the exclusive production of oil. We also turn fish oil processing waste into biofuel to operate our state-of-the-art fish oil production facility in Mulgrave, Nova Scotia (Canada).”

As for AlaskOmega, Vannice explained that the company’s fish oils exceed industry standards for freshness and are sourced from sustainable, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified, wild Alaska pollock fish. AlaskOmega fish oil is caught and manufactured in the U.S., and the company produces concentrated fish oil, delivering more EPA and DHA per serving.

Stratum Nutrition addresses the concerns of sustainability of marine sources, as well as the dietary restrictions of vegetarians, by offering Ahiflower seed oil, a vegetarian omega fatty acid source that is sustainably produced by local farmers in the U.K. “Most plant sources of omega-3s contain the essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which converts in the body to EPA and DHA, but not efficiently,” said Dockery. “Stratum Nutrition offers an ahiflower (Buglossoides arensis) seed oil, which contains not only ALA, but also stearidonic acid (SDA). SDA converts much more efficiently in the body to EPA, increasing serum levels of EPA after supplementation about four times higher than flaxseed oil. In addition, ahiflower also contains several other fatty acids, including the only other truly essential fatty acid, linoleic acid (LA—an omega-6) as well as the beneficial omega-6, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), and the omega-9, oleic acid.”

According to Welsh, DSM’s research indicates that there are a few strong consumer preference trends within dietary supplements, including smaller capsules, safety, quality and an overall increased mindfulness surrounding diet choices. “As consumers become increasingly aware of the significance that healthy diet choices play in healthy aging, we have seen a much higher demand for alternative sources to meet dietary requirements,” he said.

DSM’s life’sDHA is a vegetarian, kosher, halal and major allergen-free DHA sourced from algae that is non-genetically modified (GM) and is the only DHA currently used in U.S. infant formulas. The company’s life’sOMEGA is produced using the same methods as life’sDHA from non-GM algal source algae and is a vegetarian source of EPA and DHA omega-3s. It’s produced, from start to finish in an U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-inspected facility with controls in place to ensure the highest quality.


Within the EFA category there has been growth and change, from the types of sources, to advancements in research, expanding the list of benefits. “One of the first omega-3 products in the modern market was cod liver oil, which is a legacy product that probably goes back hundreds of years,” said Gearheart. “Modern day omega-3 supplements have traditionally come from anchovy oil—currently, 60 to 70 percent of fish oil for supplements come from the Peruvian anchovy fishery—but there are plenty of supplement products from other fish like salmon, pollock and tuna, as well as krill oil. Algae oil is a growing area, with many new suppliers commercializing algae products. Additional categories include green-shelled mussels, squid and a micro-crustacean called calanus.”

Researchers have been conducting vast amounts of studies on EFAs showing their positive effects on a number of the body’s systems. “EPA and DHA omega-3s have more than 30,000 published papers showing their benefits,” noted Gearheart. “The research is strongest in the heart health category, particularly for lowering triglycerides and blood pressure, and for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiac death. Additional areas of benefit for EPA and DHA are brain health, eye health and prenatal and infant health.”

EFAs are also moving into the sports nutrition category, as it is no longer just for body builders and hard-core athletes—consumers of all ages are now living more active lifestyles. “The health and wellness market is growing thanks to health conscious consumers everywhere, and there is no question that sports nutrition is a subcategory that is on the move,” explained Berntsen. “In fact, the sports nutrition market is spanning well beyond traditional bodybuilders and athletes and is evolving to target active lifestyles across the board. From fitness gurus to lively seniors, and everyone in between, this market is on the move and krill oil is starting to make a major impact in this space. Due to its inherent advantages, krill oil has great potential for the sports nutrition market. To that end, Aker BioMarine’s research team has set out to explore the effects that krill oil has with active lifestyles, and preliminary research data is proving to be promising.”

Aker BioMarine is also exploring the effects that krill oil can play in ultimate performance. “The company initiated a study with the Norseman Xtreme Triathletes, some of the toughest athletes in the world to see what positive effects krill oil has on illness reduction during training and recovery time,” said Berntsen. “If krill oil proves to be beneficial to the most extreme athletes in the world, there will likely be great possibilities that it can have on active lifestyles across the board.”

Aker BioMarine’s flagship product is Superba Krill. According to Berntsen, Superba Krill has come a long way over the past decade and has opened the doors to many new opportunities for the company and industry alike including: Superba2, the next generation of Superba Krill Oil, as well as Superba Boost, a new krill concentrate, which contains higher amounts of phospholipids, choline and omega-3s.

And in addition to the growing list of health concerns that may benefit from EFAs, Gearheart noted that “the primary trend in the EPA and DHA omega-3 category is the ‘trading up’ of consumers, moving from supplements containing a base level of omega-3s, so-called 18:12 oils, to more highly concentrated forms with more EPA and DHA per pill.”

DSM’s 3C Technology, for example, allows the company to create a concentrated EPA/DHA supplement choice that is up to three times more potent in a much smaller, easier to swallow capsule allowing consumers to receive the targeted health benefit in a single daily dose, according to the company.

EFAs offer a number of benefits, and options for consumers with different dietary concerns; therefore, the potential for the category seems endless. “The market for omega fatty acids, particularly omega-3s, continues to grow as the health benefits expand,” concluded Dockery. “This category is one that benefits everyone, young and old alike, so it will continue to grow and expand.” NIE

For More Information:

Aker Biomarine Antarctic AS, www.akerbiomarine.com
AlaskOmega, https://alaskomega.com
DSM, www.dsm.com
Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), www.goedomega3.com
Stratum Nutrition, www.stratumnutrition.com

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