Viva Fat!
  By Maria Pilar Clark
Live long, and get fat … well, fatty acids that is.
Omega-3 fatty acids, a form of polyunsaturated fat, are seeing a dramatic rise in popularity, as they positively benefit overall human health and wellness.
According to Datamonitor Online information from December 2005, as provided by Pizzey’s Milling, new products across the board in North America with a “high Omega-3” claim on the label have seen total SKU (stock-keeping unit) counts more than double from 2002 to 2005. A decade ago, products with this claim were virtually non-existent, Datamonitor reports.
In addition, the number of new products in North America listing “Omega-3” on the label significantly accelerated from 2002 to 2005, with total SKU counts quadrupling in all product categories. That’s not surprising to Julie Pizzey, West Coast sales manager for Pizzey’s Milling.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are essential oils that the body needs but cannot produce on its own,” she explains. “Omega-3 fatty acids support cardiovascular health, immune system health and overall health.”
Scientists have linked noshing on foods rich in saturated fats with the development of degenerative diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. However, polyunsaturated fats can actually improve health. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are primarily found in flaxseed and cold-water fish, fit into the category of polyunsaturated fats, along with Omega-6 fatty acids, which are another type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in many plant-based oils, poultry, eggs and grains.
According to Pizzey, emerging research also suggests that consuming Omega-3 fatty acids assists in cognitive development and function.
“Flaxseed is a rich source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) Omega-3, the ‘parent’ compound that the body either uses in the ALA form or further converts into DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are longer chain Omega-3 fatty acids,” she says.
Although the body needs both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids to maintain top-notch body functions, most consumers incorporate more Omega-6 fatty acids (such as cereals, baked goods, whole grain bread, fried foods and margarine) than Omega-3 fatty acids into their daily diets.
Scientists suggest maintaining a better balance between both types of fatty acids for optimum health, since most of the population that consumes a typical Western diet has their ratios completely out of whack.
“One of the best sources of Omega-3 is flaxseed, which can easily be incorporated into baked goods,” Pizzey says. “Flaxseed may replace oil at a 3:1 ratio or replace some of the flour in a low-carb formulation. This source of Omega-3 is economical, hypoallergenic and requires no special handling procedures.”
Pizzey adds that while only 260 mg. of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids per serving qualify that particular product for a “Rich or Excellent Source of Omega-3” nutrient content claim, “producers can also make structure function claims such as ‘Omega-3 fatty acids support cardiovascular health.’”
This is good news for baked goods producers and snack food manufacturers as they look to enhance innovative new products incorporating Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids into their formulations.
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