From the editor's desk

Why don’t more consumers use omega-3s?

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

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Getty Images
A recent panel discussion hosted by NutraIngredients-USA pointed out that the omega-3s market is robust, albeit slowly growing, but also that it could be so much more.

The discussion was in the form of a live webinar which is now available on demand.  The panelists included Ellen Schutt, executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s and Sam Wiley, CEO of finished goods brand Wiley’s Finest.

The panel also included noted omega-3s researcher Prof. William S. Harris, PhD, of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota and the omega-3s testing firm OmegaQuant.  And rounding out the panel was attorney Katie Bond of the law firm Amin Talati Wasserman.

Robust market, but room for growth

Schutt gave some figures for the  supply end of the market.  GOED pegs the global fish oil market at about $1.3 billion.  It’s growing about 2% per year, which is modest, but is welcome after a decline in the early years of the decade. Half or more of that oil is used in dietary supplements.

Wiley noted that there is a robust user base for omega-3s. He estimated that anywhere form 8% to 15% of consumers depending on the market are daily users of omega-3 supplements.

That’s good news.  But the evidence shows that omega-3s are good for everyone. 

One issue that Wiley identified during the discussion is that the industry needs to do a better job of making the case with healthcare providers for the efficacy of these ingredients.  

This has been a familiar mantra over the years.  But how to do it?

Evidence that will convince physicians

One issue that has hamstrung this conversation in the past has been the lack of what many mainstream healthcare professionals would deem to be credible evidence.  Companies that sell dietary supplements can’t afford the kind of large scale clinical trials that MDs are trained to look upon favorably.

But drug companies can. The results of Amarin’s recent REDUCE-IT trial could provide the sort of arrow in quiver of dietary supplement marketers that might finally turn heads in the mainstream medical community.

In the webinar Prof. Harris laid out the powerful results of this trial, showing as much as a 30% reduction in risk of cardiovascular events.

Amarin has sued and settled with two omega-3 dietary supplement manufacturers that were allegedly using the results of the trial on the company’s drug form (an almost pure form of EPA) to market their dietary supplements.  

But I don’t think the company would be privy to, nor have a cause to take action against, using the results of this trial in conversations with healthcare providers.  You want proof omega-3s work?  Here it is, or so the conversation might go.

Ingredients used at different dosages

And there is precedent for using a ingredient at one dosage for one application and at another in more of a maintenance setting.  Aspirin is used for pain and fever relief at high dosages, and at a lower dose is used as a blood thinner to lessen the risk of strokes.

The Amarin trial was done at a 4 gram daily dosage. This far exceeds what many in the industry propose: 500 mg daily for starters, with 1 gram a day a more desirable goal.

But the Amarin trial was also done with people who already were using statins.  A diseased population, in other words.  So there is still a strong case to be made for the cardioprotective, prophylactic effects of omega-3s at the lower dosage with healthy people.

Omega-3s are one of the oldest dietary ingredients in the industry.  Armed with these new results, it return to being one of the most dynamic, too.

On demand webinar

To hear the omega-3s webinar on demand, click here​.

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