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Omega-3-fortified dairy effective for heart health: Study

By Stephen Daniells , 26-Mar-2010

Consuming dairy products fortified with omega-3 fatty acids does benefit heart health, and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, says a new study from Germany.

Three grams of omega-3 per day in a dairy drink was associated with improvements in a range of cardiovascular risk factors, including cholesterol levels, triacylglyceride levels, and the ratio of arachidonic acid (AA) to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), according to findings published in Clinical Nutrition.

The heart health benefits of consuming oily fish, and the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.

Omega-3 fatty acids, most notably DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA, have also been linked to a wide-range of health benefits, including reduced risk of certain cancers, good development of a baby during pregnancy, joint health, and improved behaviour and mood.

Such benefits have filtered through to consumers and omega-3 fatty acids are being used to fortify a range of products, from margarine to bread. For the new study, researchers led by Gerhard Jahreis from Friedrich Schiller University in Jena used dairy products to deliver the fatty acids.

German creamery Herzgut provided the products used in the study and the company also financed the study.

Study details

Jahreis and his co-workers recruited 51 people to participate in their randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study. The participants all had mildly elevated triacylglyceride levels and were randomly assigned to receive omega-3fortified dairy products, or normal dairy products.

After 15 weeks of intervention and a 10 week ‘washout period’, the participants were crossed over to the other group for a further 15 weeks.

At the end of the study the Jena-based scientists report that omega-3-enriched dairy led to “a significant improvement of cardiovascular risk factors, e.g., omega-3 fatty acid index, AA/EPA ratio, total cholesterol, and triacylglycerides.

Indeed, the AA/EPA ratio went from an average of 8.7 at the start of the study to an average of 2.8 after omega-3-fortified dairy consumption. On the other, an increase in AA/EPA was observed in the control group. Triacylglycerides decreased by about 25 per cent after omega-3 supplementation, but were unchanged after the control period.

“The lower AA/EPA ratio and the higher omega-3 index due to consumption of the intervention products are beneficial and are an indication for a reduced risk of coronary heart disease,” concluded the researchers.

Source: Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi:
“n − 3 LC-PUFA-enriched dairy products are able to reduce cardiovascular risk factors: A double-blind, cross-over study”
Authors: C. Dawczynski, L. Martin, A. Wagner, G. Jahreis

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