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BASF omega-3: From Norway since 1838 to a global, multi-platform omega-3 leader

The omega-3 market has evolved rapidly over the past 30 years. In that time, the market has moved from cod liver oil sold without significant scientific support, to high-absorption concentrates clinically proven to have positive effects on heart health. The rapid evolution has created a multi-billion dollar category and touched millions of lives.

BASF’s involvement in omega-3s dates back to 1838, when marine oil producer Johan C Martens began operating in Bergen, Norway. More than 180 years later, the operation in Norway has developed into a world class production facility and BASF has built a global omega-3 organization known for the highest focus on research, development and reliability, with market-defining business platforms in pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements, functional nutrition, early life nutrition and medical foods.

Validating the efficacy of high-concentrate omega-3

BASF (originally as Pronova BioPharma) provided the active ingredients used in the first omega-3 concentrates in the 1990s. Sold under the brand names Omacor® and Lovaza®, the products contained an unprecedented 840mg of omega-3-acid esters per 1000mg capsule. The market was at the time dominated by 18:12 oils at 30% concentration.

The BASF high-concentrates were tested in a landmark trial in collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia-Upjohn, Pfizer and SPA.1​ That study enrolled 11,324 survivors of myocardial infarction and randomized them to receive either 1000mg of omega-3 concentrate a day, vitamin E, both products or neither of the interventions.

Patients who received the omega-3 had a 45% reduced risk of sudden death. The trial also linked the product to 20% and 30% reductions in mortality and cardiovascular mortality, respectively.

In doing so, researchers created a blockbuster therapy and established the omega-3 high-concentrate market, which BASF served with its own brand and by selling to marketeers around the world.

BASF omega-3s – a complete portfolio for all customer segments

The early high-concentrate clinical trials validated the pharmaceutical use of omega-3 to treat patients with severe health conditions. More recently, BASF has successfully transitioned to working on the arguably harder task of demonstrating positive effects of high-concentrate omega-3 nutritional supplements in healthy populations.

The transition shows the value of BASF’s business structure, which enables pharmaceutical breakthroughs to cascade to dietary supplements and medical food categories and offer customers a complete ecosystem of omega-3 products and technologies.

AccelonTM​ - The latest BASF breakthrough for omega-3 dietary supplements absorption – clinically proven to increase absorption of omega-3 by a minimum of 4X

In recent years, the dietary supplements category has focused on the amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in each capsule, with double and triple strength products becoming widespread in supplement aisles around the world. However, while clinical trials in the 1990s showed concentration is important, more recent research has demonstrated that it is far from the only critical variable.

There is little value in administering a high concentration of omega-3 if only a fraction of the active ingredient is absorbed and enters the bloodstream. Consumers often take omega-3 in the morning with little to no food or with high carbohydrate-type breakfasts - conditions we now know are highly suboptimal for omega-3 absorption.

Accelon is a breakthrough absorption technology for omega-3 supplements, designed to meet consumer needs by improving absorption of omega-3 by a minimum of four times2,3​, without the need for specific meals or conditions when taking the supplement. BASF has validated Accelon in non-clinical and clinical trials that linked the technology to improved absorption at all times of the day.

BASF’s drive to get more omega-3 to more consumers is also boosted by strategic partnerships, such as the recent three-year collaboration with Xerion. Under this agreement, BASF has the exclusive distribution rights to market PUFAcoatTM ​Omega-3 Index test kits, which provide highly accurate readings of an individual’s omega-3 index, empowering consumers to make informed choices on improving their omega-3 levels by increasing their intake through food or supplements.

Expanding the science and benefits of omega-3 to address specific consumer needs

BASF is committed to staying at the forefront of omega-3 science and nutrition in addition to innovating for all consumers.  To that end, BASF recently expanded to omega-3 for medical foods with the launch of HepaxaTM​, a high concentrate and pure EPA and DHA product for the dietary management of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Hepaxa is the first medical food product in the U.S. specifically designed to address a build-up of fat in the liver, known as steatosis, in NAFLD patients.

A recent clinical trial found NAFLD patients who took Hepaxa for 24 weeks experienced significant reductions in liver fat.4​ Liver fat accumulates in patients with NAFLD, leading the disorder to evolve from an asymptomatic condition into a disease that causes serious liver damage. Reducing liver fat could therefore improve outcomes in a disease estimated to affect up to 40% of people in the US5​.

The development of Accelon and Hepaxa demonstrates how BASF leverages its unique cross-platform competencies to expand the frontiers of the omega-3 science and technology, working with customers and partners and to help all consumers live healthier and longer, thanks to the benefits of omega-3.

BASF is a diamond sponsor of the first ever NutraIngredients Global Omega-3 Summit, February 20-22 in Singapore. Organized in association with GOED, the event will see global omega-3 commercial and technical communities converge to share insights about how the dietary supplements category can seize opportunities to better serve consumers and grow their business.

References

1. Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Lancet 354, 447–455 (1999).

 2. West,A.L., Kindberg, G.M., Hustvedt, S.O., Calder, P.C. A Novel Self-Micro-Emulsifying Delivery System Enhances Enrichment of Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid after Single and Repeated Dosing in Healthy Adults in a Randomized Trial. Journal of Nutrition. 2018;148:1704–1715.

 3. Qin, Y., Nyheim, H., Haram, E.M., Moritz, J.M., Hustvedt, S.O. A novel self-micro-emulsifying delivery system (SMEDS) formulation significantly improves the fasting absorption of EPA and DHA from a single dose of an omega-3 ethyl ester concentrate. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2017;16:204-214.

 4. Tobin, D., Brevik-Andersen, M., Qin, Y., Innes, J. K. & Calder, P. C. Evaluation of a High Concentrate Omega-3 for Correcting the Omega-3 Fatty Acid Nutritional Deficiency in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (CONDIN). Nutrients 10, (2018).

 5. Definition & Facts of NAFLD & NASH | NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease/nafld-nash/definition-facts. (Accessed: 28th December 2018)

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