Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review- Omega-3 Oils: Applications in Functional Foods

This book review originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of inform magazine.

Omega-3 Oils: Applications in Functional Foods
E.M. Hernandez and M. Hosokawa (eds.), AOCS Press, 2011,

Omega-3 Oils: Applications in Functional Foods covers a topical subject, both for the dietary supplement industry and the food industry. In fact, Frost & Sullivan, a market research firm based in San Antonio, Texas, USA, estimates that the omega-3 oil ingredient supply will reach $1.6 billion by 2014.

    There have been many attempts to incorporate omega-3 oils into food products to take advantage of the favorable consumer attitude toward this important nutrient. There have also been many spectacular economic market failures, due either to poor consumer targeting or to technical difficulties with the product and its manufacturing. This new book has a slightly misleading title—“Applications”—since it provides extensive coverage of the science and the technology of omega-3 oils, rather than just formulation information regarding food matrices.

    The 12 chapters cover three basic areas: structure and function, production and processing, and health effects. The editors have assembled an interesting and select group of international authors from the United States, Canada, and Japan. The amount of discussion relating to the science and benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the body may be slightly disappointing to those only interested in the practical food technology application of omega-3 oils in functional foods; however, that does not detract from the overall value and utility of the book.

    The chapter by Ernesto Hernandez is comprehensive and deals with formulations and product stability. The contents are useful and practical, especially to someone who has struggled with the flavor and stability of functional foods. Tomoko Okada and co-workers provide an interesting and relevant chapter on the synergistic, additive, and health effects of fish oils and bioactive compounds, which includes antioxidants, and their synergy with statins, which is of great medical importance.

    A question of particular concern in the omega-3 business is the efficacy of the structural form of the lipid. There is still some debate as to the differences in unaltered triacylglycerols from processed fish oil, lipids structured by transesterification, ethyl esters, and, more recently, phospholipids. There is an entire chapter on the synthesis of structured lipids, now a key component of infant formulae. A competitive advantage has been attributed to krill oil because of its high content of phospholipids and the presence of the antioxidant astaxanthin. While some of these advantages are dealt with in the book, they remain largely unexplored and a discussion of the role of krill vs. other forms of omega-3 oils in dietary supplements (soft gels) is not provided.

    The comprehensive chapter by Anthony Bimbo detailing the production of marine oils is technical, detailed, and informative, although a great deal of this information has been published in other texts and journals.

    The chapters on the health effects of omega-3 oils read like reports of clinical trials in medical journals. They are a vital reference for companies wishing to have scientific backing for the use of omega-3 oils in their functional foods. The short, six-page chapter on the dietary role of phospholipid-containing omega-3s in obesity disorders of rats is, in my opinion, out of place in this book and should have been a paper in a refereed journal.

    There is extensive coverage of flaxseed by an author from the Flax Council of Canada. This comprehensive chapter complements the AOCS book Flaxseed in Human Nutrition. The chapter does not dwell on the consumer confusion between the 18-carbon omega-3 and the longer chain-length fatty acids found in marine oils. There is no doubt α-linolenic acid has health benefits on its own merits, but it has been proven not to have any significant transformation to docosahexaenoic acid in the human body although there is some transformation to eicosapentaenoic acid. The biological mechanisms are dealt with well in this chapter, particularly the competition between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, and the nutritional problems in consuming too much linoleic acid at the expense of omega-3 fatty acids has been emphasized.

    Overall, this book is extremely readable, with only a few minor spelling mistakes. It will be extremely useful to a wide range of readers. It is well referenced and has a comprehensive index. The information contained in this book will enable scientists and practical technologists to make a detailed evaluation of whether the incorporation of omega-3 oils in functional foods has a proven benefit.

Laurence Eyres is a consultant to the food and dietary supplement industry in New Zealand. He has been involved in the science and commercial technology of oils and fats for over 35 years, is a member of AOCS, and is the chairman of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Oils and Fats Specialist Group. He may be contacted at

Ernesto Hernandez discusses the AOCS Press book, "Omega-3 Oils: Applications in Functional Foods" at the 102nd Annual AOCS Meeting & Expo in Cincinnati, OH.

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