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EFAs Enhanced


With awareness of benefits now widespread, EFA suppliers and manufacturers are taking the necessary measures to further develop the market.

According to a joint report released by the Food & Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization regarding the role of dietary fats and oils in nutrition, the current recommendations are that we need a minimum of three percent of our daily caloric intake to be essential fatty acids (EFAs). This percentage goes up to five percent for children and pregnant/lactating mothers. EFAs are essential for overall health and well being; they are present in every cell and they control our cellular metabolism.

As consumers are now becoming more aware about the necessary benefits of EFAs, there is plenty of market potential.“EFAs continue to be a growth area, and more Americans are becoming aware of the need for enrichment in their diets,” said Eric Anderson, vice president of sales and marketing for Washingtonbased Aker BioMarine Antarctic US.According to a Frost & Sullivan presentation at the GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3) conference this year, growth last year had slowed to about 10 percent for EPA and DHA globally, and it is projected to grow at a rate of about 16 percent through 2016, said Anderson.

Market sources are predicting doubledigit growth for this category, added Marina Linsley, marketing director at California-based NP Nutra. “Factors driving the growth include the publication of a growing body of research into the benefits of EFAs along with a wide variety of sources to choose from and increased consumer uptake. Sales are on the up and up!”

Getting EFAs

The strongest evidence for possible health benefits of EFAs is for omega-3 fatty acids. These may lower the risk of heart disease, lower triglyceride levels, decrease plaque buildup in the arteries, lower blood pressure and decrease the Risk of heart attack and stroke, according to MayoClinic.com. While the benefits are becoming well-known, the argument on how consumers should best get EFAs has unquestionably been an ongoing one. Cyvex Nutrition, an ingredient supplier in California, offers menhaden fish oils, and products with typical EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)/DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) ratio, along with specialized oils containing DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) at various levels and oils containing the omega-7, palmitoleic acid at varying levels. While not as much scientific work has been done on DPA compared to EPA and DHA, it looks like DPA may play a significant additional role when it comes to healthy heart and arteries, controlling inflammation, and neurological health and function, said the company’s medical director, Dr. Puya Yazdi.

“Another unique aspect of Cyvex’s menhaden fish oil is high bioavailability of EFAs. For instance, a European study published in Lipids showed that fatty acids in menhaden oil are more bioavailable than those in corn oil, butter or cod liver oil. This distinctive feature of menhaden oil was explained by the very favorable distribution of fatty acids on the glycerol backbone of the triglycerides,” said Yazdi.

However, a survey recently conducted by Discovery Research Group in partnership with Aker BioMarine, the exclusive supplier of Superba™ Krill oil, revealed that nearly four out of 10 consumers who want to take an omega-3 supplement are looking for an alternative to fish oil.The survey went to a panel of consumers who take a multivitamin or other nutritional supplement and indicated that they were interested in health, wellness and fitness. Thirty-seven percent of participants consider themselves someone who wants to take or currently takes an omega-3 supplement, but would rather take something other than fish oil. When asked why they do not want to take fish oil, the most common reasons given were: bad taste, bad aftertaste, fishy burps, bad smell and large capsule size.

Alternatively, a “shining star” in the omega-3 space is krill phospholipid EPA And DHA, said Anderson.Growth in 2011 in the U.S. in the Food, Drug and Mass (FDM) channel for all omega-3 supplements including fish and flax was about six percent.However, the growth for krill supplements in the FDM channel was about 70 percent in 2011, he added.

“We believe this is due to the excellent consumer experience.The small, powerful dose of krill phospholipid EPA and DHA results in an excellent source of these omegas, and the unique phospholipid source is gentle on the stomach and extremely tolerable,” he said.Phospholipids are readily absorbed by the cells and deliver more of the omega- 3s to the cells than typical triglyceride oils can. As a result, krill oil works in smaller doses, meaning smaller capsules that are easy to swallow. “And the phospholipids are what make krill oil so easy to digest, part of why there’s no digestive discomfort or repeating. Also, krill are a sustainable, renewable source of omega-3s,” said Anderson.

Enzymotec, an ingredient supplier based in Israel, also has a product line based on krill oil. The company’s K•REAL is pure krill oil extracted from the Antarctic krill containing omega-3 fatty acids, phospholipids and astaxanthin. K•REAL is manufactured through a unique multi-stage oil-extraction process called MSO, according to the company.This technology offers an optimal preparation process, which preserves krill oil’s natural qualities and ensures its freshness, said Dr. Eyal Afergan, Enzymotec’s category manager. Additionally, K•REAL was found to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA and has obtained novel food status from the European Union, he said.

“We believe that the omega-3 market is expected to continue to witness strong growth across all categories, but krill oil will be a high growth area within this segment due to increasing consumer awareness and acceptance of its multiple product benefits,” said Afergan.“According to GOED, the growth of the krill oil segment last year was around 40 percent on a global basis. Thus, we had to doubled our capacity to meet grow growing demand in the krill oil global markets.”

Furthermore, Arizona-based Algae Biosciences produces an algae oil with 40 percent omega-3 (20 percent EPA, 20 percent DHA), which is a blend of two algae oils. In addition, the oil contains all of the oil-soluble compounds (betacarotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, phytosterols, vitamin E and others), said the company’s president and CEO, Andrew Ayers. “These additional compounds not only add nutritional value to the oil, but they protect the omega-3s from oxidation.This product is also unique in purity as it is virtually free of contaminants. This is due to the pristine nature of the water in which the algae are grown and the purity of the fertilizers used in algae production.”

Safety & Sustainability

The entire krill fishery is managed by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), an international treaty between 25 nations that seeks to manage Antarctic fisheries with the goal of preserving species diversity and stability of the entire Antarctic marine ecosystem.The CCAMLR was established in 1982, in response to concerns that increasing krill fishing activities could have a deleterious impact on the Southern Ocean ecosystem. Krill for direct human consumption is an insignificant segment out of the precautionary catch limit set by CCAMLR, noted Afergan.

Aker BioMarine’s Oslo, Norway krill fishery has taken further steps to ensure sustainability, said Anderson. “Aker Works closely with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWFNorway) to ensure a sustainable fishery. The result of this collaboration is the development of a fishing technique called eco-harvesting that essentially eliminates by-catch of other non-krill species. Further, Aker actively contributes to research donating the use of its vessel for annual studies, and actively sponsors research on the health of the krill biomass and impact on other species that consume krill.”

NP Nutra’s Linsley pointed out that the popularity of plant-sourced EFAs has risen due to increased public concern about the levels of heavy metal contamination in fish oils as well as over-fishing and sustainability issues. “As demand for EFAs grows, so too has concern about the decline of fish stocks worldwide and heavy metal contamination. Aquaculture has been criticized for being possibly even more environmentally damaging than wild fisheries,” she said.

Concerns about contamination are particularly worrying to pregnant and lactating women, and have lead to advice from health authorities to reduce consumption of oily fish, Linsley continued. “Algal sources are a good alternative, but are significantly more expensive than fishsourced EFAs. Depending on how they are sourced, plants offer a much more sustainable and safe supply of EFAs.Organic farming practices can reduce or eliminate heavy metals, and sustainable growing and harvesting practices can minimize environmental impacts.”

While consumers are indeed increasingly demanding that oils come from sustainable sources, Cyvex’s Yazdi argued that marine sources meet that demand. “Most major fisheries that provide fish oils are managed sustainably. Menhaden purse-seine fishery, for instance, produces fish oil with minimal environmental impact. The fishery’s bycatch is among the lowest in the world, typically below one percent. The percentage of harvested biomass is small and subsequent populations are unaffected, which meets the sustainability criteria,” he said. “Conversely, plant- and algae-derived oils have more impact on the environment, based on the cumulative energy use, biotic resource use, emissions and other factors.”

In regard to the safety of oils, environmental contaminants can be removed equally efficiently from plant and marine oils using molecular distillation and other purification techniques.Today, manufacturers that have these capabilities are typically able to meet the most stringent standards of nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries, Yazdi said.

More Challenges

The never-ending quest for balance between supply and demand has led to innovation in sustainability and environmental stewardship. For sea buckthorn cultivation, which is heavily used by NP Nutra, planting programs have been implemented in areas at risk of desertification in Tibet and Southern China to meet increased demand, said Linsley.

Enzymotec’s Afergan added that the main challenge in sourcing EFAs is to get high quality raw materials. “This Challenge and the know-how of the manufacturers are making the difference between the products’ quality,” he said.

In the case of krill phospholipid EPA and DHA, the supply chain is fundamentally important, agreed Anderson. Krill are a wild biomass and are harvested in some of the most extreme weather conditions.Aker BioMarine is a primary supplier of krill products, owning two fishing vessels and controlling the harvest from the sea to shelf with 100 percent traceability and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, he said.

Besides sourcing EFAs, there are also challenges producing EFA supplements. Immediately after death, krill begin to deteriorate; once autolysis begins, bacteria present in the gut and skin or present in water or containers can easily enter tissues, explained Afergan. “Krill is more susceptible to spoilage than other marine sources because of its adaptation to low-temperature living.Furthermore, unlike fish oil, with krill oil, no heat can extract oil from the biomass.Therefore, an alternative purification procedure must take place,” he explained. “Such a procedure must take into account mild temperature and minimal interaction with the nutrients of the krill bio-mass so that highest quality and nutritional value are achieved.”

In general, manufacturers of EFA supplements may have to deal with the inconsistent quality of raw material, toxin contamination and tighter supply of raw material due to the increasing demand, added Yazdi, increasing the need for smart partnerships. “To overcome these challenges, supplement manufacturers should source raw material from sustainable and credible suppliers who control every step of the production process and are capable of providing safe and consistent products.”

Extra! Extra!

Visit www.niemagazine.com to learn about a new ISO standard on the traceability of fish products.


.Aker BioMarine, (206) 855-6736 

.Algae Biosciences, (480) 235-8488 

.Cyvex Nutrition, (949) 622-9030 

.Enzymotec Ltd., +972-74-717-7177 

.NP Nutra, (310) 694-3031

Non-GMO Project