WHAT IS OMEGA-3 DHA?
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is a long chain Omega-3 fatty acid. Studies show that it plays a vital role in the visual development and brain growth of unborn babies as well as helping to manage and reduce the risk of heart disease. It is predominantly found in oily fish and algal oil.
THE NUTRITIONAL IMPORTANCE OF OMEGA-3 DHA?
There are three principle health benefits attributed to consumption of the long chain Omega-3 PUFAs, EPA and DHA:
Brain development and cognitive functioning.
Omega-3 DHA is critical to the development of the brain and cognitive functioning in infants; and has a continued role for children. Breast milk provides at least 50mg of DHA to the infant each day. Based on the rate of accumulation into the human brain there is a need to supply DHA either via breast milk or fortified infant formulas during the first year of life. The role of Omega-3s in behavior, learning and maintenance in older children and the elderly is also emerging.
Developmental and maintenance role in visual acuity
Omega-3 DHA has long been known to be important for visual function. The highest concentration of DHA found in the human body is in the retina. Studies investigating the effects of food enriched with DHA on visual development in infants have found that feeding infants DHA supplemented food from 6 months of age results in better visual function by 12 months of age compared to control (non DHA supplemented) infants.
Cardiovascular health and disease prevention/recovery
Omega-3s have a direct influence in reducing the risk of heart disease by preventing irregularities in the rhythm of the heart, protecting against the formation of plaques in arteries and reducing blood pressure.Key studies also demonstrate the role of Omega-3s in reducing sudden death by up to 45% in people that had previously experienced a heart attack.
Source: (Burr et al, 1989, GISSI, 1999)
OMEGA-3 DHA HEALTH CLAIMS (FOOD)
Omega-3 is used in product around the world. Here are some insights from key markets based on their research:
“Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of [Name of the food product] provides [X] grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.”
“DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, supports the normal physical development of the brain, eyes and nerves primarily in children under two years of age.”A quantative statement of DHA in g/serving must appear on the label or in the advertisement for the food.
“DHA can maintain normal brain function, vision and blood triglyceride levels”.
“EPA and DHA together can maintain normal heart function and blood pressure”.
“DHA can contribute to normal visual development of infants up to 12 months of age”
“In pregnant mothers DHA contributes to the normal development of the eye of the fetus and breastfed infants, normal brain development of the fetus and breastfed infants”.
“EPA and DHA can contribute to heart health”The food must contain a minimum of 50mg EPA and DHA combined in a serving of food. And, other than for fish or fish products with no added saturated fatty acids, the food has to contain less than 28 percent saturated fatty acids and trans fats, or less than 5g per 100g saturated fatty acids and trans fats.