Monday, February 15, 2016

15/02/2016: Let’s think outside the omega-3 box!

by Ioannis Zabetakis 
When considering the nutritional value of fish, one would be hard pressed to not discuss Omega-3. However, when doing so, it is crucial that the following factors are also fully considered.
Firstly, the association of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) has been revised recently by evaluating all randomised trials on the supplementation of omega-3 PUFAs to adults. The results of 20 studies on 68 680 patients were evaluated and omega-3 PUFAs were not found to be statistically significantly associated with CVDs in various patient populations[1].

Secondly, there is still considerable doubt today if lowering blood cholesterol is a true prerequisite in order to protect ourselves from CVDs. In fact, cholesterol can be correlated with CVDs but without being a causal factor for it. Therefore, people with high levels of High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) face no higher risk for CVDs as the ratio (and not only the absolute levels!) of LDL to HDL is also important in disease prognosis.

Given those facts, it is rather surprising to see that most of the studies in aquaculture are still not addressing the nutritional value of the final produce from the consumer’s point of view. People eat fish because they have been told that “fish is good for you” and this is, still, valid and true. But what is the optimum dose of fish we need to consume every week? I am afraid that there is not strong scientific evidence behind the recommended “two portions per week”.

Do these two portions need to be spread in the week or it does not matter? Is it ok if I eat three portions one week and only one the week after? The answers to these questions are well known but the point I am trying to make in this editorial is that the answers have not been properly communicated by either B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumers).

So, at the beginning of 2016, we are facing some interesting challenges: firstly we must establish why is fish or fish oil (as a whole) as opposed to omega-3 supplements is more beneficial in terms of protecting from the onset of CVDs? Then we must discover how we can make the production of fish more sustainable? In other words, how we can minimise our dependence in aquaculture for fish oil [3]?

There is no doubt that these issues, being on the interface of food security and food functionality, need a multidisciplinary approach and I would like to use this space to make a call to colleagues in our Industry to join forces in addressing them.
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