BASF aims to drive personalised nutrition in APAC with proprietary omega-3 test kit

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Developed in 2011, the omega-3 index is defined as the total concentration of EPA and DHA in red blood cells. ©Getty Images
Developed in 2011, the omega-3 index is defined as the total concentration of EPA and DHA in red blood cells. ©Getty Images

Related tags Omega-3 index personalised nutrition

BASF's human nutrition brand Newtrition has gained exclusive distribution rights to market Aussie consumer healthcare firm Xerion's omega-3 test kits, thanks to a new three-year agreement between the two companies.

The agreement aims to drive personalised nutrition in APAC with the PUFAcoat Omega-3 Index test kits, which utilise Xerion's proprietary dried blood spot technology to provide accurate measurements of their omega-3 blood levels.

Each kit consists of a finger-prick device, a strip of paper, an alcohol swab, and an aluminium pouch. Users use the device to draw a blood sample, collect it with the strip paper, clean their finger with the swab, and place all the items in the aluminium pouch.

The pouch is then sent back to Australia, and users will receive their results within three weeks.

Trial and (fewer) errors

Developed in 2011, the omega-3 index is defined as the total concentration of EPA and DHA in red blood cells, and is expressed as a percentage of the body's total fatty acid content.

It is considered a key biomarker of cardiovascular health, and has become increasingly important as the incidence of heart disease has risen worldwide: over 17 million deaths from heart disease are recorded annually.

The technology employed by the PUFAcoat Omega-3 Index kit was developed to counter the difficulty of stabilising long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) for analysis. It reportedly stabilises EPA and DHA on a solid matrix for up to nine weeks at room temperature and up to two weeks at 40°C, which allows for highly accurate readings.

The kits have been tested in several clinical trials in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

BASF's senior VP of Global Human Nutrition, François Scheffler, told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "In these trials, we looked at the stability of the fatty acids in the dried blood samples over a period of time at room temperature and higher temperatures.

"There was another trial in Australia that tested the efficacy of supplementing pregnant women with 800mg of DHA daily, and we were able to use the technology in this trial.

"We are now conducting trials to assess the correlation between the omega-3 index and certain health outcomes (using the kits)."

Consumption, absorption and personalised nutrition

He added: "What is really critical when you look at omega-3 is not just intake, but uptake — the absorption of omega-3 by cells and organs in the body.

"It's very important that when you take a supplement, especially omega-3, it gets all the way to the cellular level. You have to get all the way to the mitochondria so that it's effective. It's not good enough just to swallow a pill and digest it."

With the new kit, customers will be able to measure not just their EPA and DHA levels, but the levels of other fatty acids in their blood. Scheffler said this would help to increase the availability of data on omega-3, as many personalised nutrition tests have not focused on this aspect of health.

"It's very important to get proper measurements so people can decide on an individual basis how much food or fatty acids they need. For example, if you are pregnant, you would need more DHA than most other people.

"What's challenging in today's market is not accessibility to supplements, but finding out how effective such supplements are on the individual. It depends on your genetic code, and this links to personalised nutrition."

APAC potential

BASF has launched the PUFAcoat Omega-3 kits in several initial test markets, namely, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Scheffler explained: "The APAC region has the biggest population in the world, as well as the biggest ageing population. It also has the highest absolute number of middle-class people, and is where non-communicable diseases are developing the fastest.

"The needs related to these populations will only increase over the next 20 years. According to the WHO, one in five adults in China suffer from cardiovascular diseases, and this will increase by 50% over the next 15 years.

"We hope to work with more partners in the region to meet the needs of these consumers."

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