Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of unsaturated fatty acids that cannot be produced by our own bodies. More and more studies show that too low intake of these omega-3 fatty acids can be associated with a series Western chronic disease, both physically and psychologically: overweight, cardiovascular disease, depression, Dementia, ADHD. Moreover, it appears that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) plays an important role in the development of the eyes and the brain in children. We cannot recognise that humans have a relatively large amount of brains compared to their body size compared to other primates. The dietary pattern (rich in unsaturated fatty acids) of prehistoric man would be at the basis of our evolutionary advantage over other great apes. In the last tens of thousands of years our genes have changed little in strong contrast to our diet. The answer to the question “should we eat like a primitive man?” (Flanders ‘ FOOD article 05/04/2012), is therefore largely “yes”. However, this does not mean that we all have to go back to catch fish. New technologies allow them to incorporate these essential fatty acids is our contemporary diet.
One of the biggest challenges in the processing of omega-3 fatty acids is the oxidative instability of these compounds. The many double bonds in the carbon chain of the omega-3 fatty acids make these nutrients susceptible to oxidation with fishy taste abnormalities as a result. The risk of oxidation becomes even greater if this omega-3 oil is heated during food processing. Fortunately, there are techniques to make these omega-3 fatty acids less susceptible to oxidation.
Antioxidants are added to the oil to reduce the amount of free radicals.
Polar impurities can be removed by steam deodorization or an earth treatment.
Spray drying of the omega-3 oil with other materials gives as end result a powder in which micro droplets of oil are encased. Processing of this powder in foodstuffs can give rise to a sandy mouth feeling. In addition, the spray drying is done at a higher temperature with risks to oxidation and taste abnormalities as a result.
Freezing drying has the advantage of being able to encapsulate the omega-3 oil at low temperatures. Although, the result of this process is a porous, spongy structure that allows the oil to oxidize easily.
Omega-3 oil can also be encapsulated in an emulsion to reduce contact with oxygen, spore metals and other substances that can lead to oxidation of the omega-3 fatty acids. The materials for this encapsulation can be either other fats or polysaccharides or proteins. The result are microcapsules that are relatively large and which can easily settle in low viscosity foods as a result.
New OMEGA-3 emulsion technology
As a result of all the abovementioned difficulties concerning the incorporation of omega-3 fatty acids into foodstuffs, Croda developed a new emulsion technique that encapsulates the omega-3 oil in a complex of milk proteins. A mixture of whey and casein proteins is heated to form a complex structure with great molecular weight. This complex of milk proteins forms the interphase between the oil and water phases. The oxidation of the omega-3 oil is prevented by the antioxidant capacity of the 2 milk proteins. The Fosfoserylgroep on the casein protein and the Sulfhydrylgroep on the whey protein capture free racidalen and bind metals that could otherwise initiate oxidation. In addition, the unique combination of whey and casein proteins provides superior emulsifiërende properties of the omega-3 oil in the water phase.
A Spanish study recently indicated that cheese is an interesting food product to enrich with omega-3 fatty acids. Also Croda’s Omega-3 emulsion technique was applied in cheese. The study showed that taste abnormalities by oxidation of the omega-3 oil occurred much quicker in cheese where simply omega-3 oil was added compared to cheese where the omega-3 oil was added in the form of microcapsules containing milk proteins.
The Columbus concept: Evolutionary aspects of dietary lipids and human health, Fabien the master, Omega-3 directory, October 2011.
The importance of energy and nutrient supply in human brain evolution, S.C. Cunnane et al., Nutrition and Health Journal, Vol. 9, Nr. 3, 1993.
Novel Omega-3 emulsion technologies, Greg Weatherhead, Nutrafood, Vol. 10 October, 2011. Fulltext freely available.
Scientists claim high omega-3 retention rates in popular cheeses, Foodnavigator.com, February 22, 2012.