The soaring enthusiasm for these beneficial additives caused the market for omega-3 fatty acids alone to rise 34 percent between 2007 and 2006. Adding to the market craze were the less well-known omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. Packaged Facts estimates that the retail market for omega-3-fortified foods will have reached $8 billion by 2012.
This market projection is based on an extraordinary compound annual growth rate of 32 percent between the years of 2003 and 2012. The market began expanding rapidly soon after the Food and Drug Administration’s 2004 endorsement of the omega fatty acids DHA and EPA as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. According to Don Montuori of Packaged Facts, omega-3 fortified foods are highly recognized by the health-conscious consumer of today. The once “fishy-flavored foods” are now in the past, thanks to significant advances in omega-3 ingredients.
Montuori adds that the addition of omega-3s is by far the current hottest fortified-food trend and will remain so for many years to come. Following this rising trend, more than 1,300 food and beverage products were enhanced with omega fatty acids and introduced in the 2008 global market. This is compared to only 739 in 2006.
On our side of the pond, although some 80% of Americans are aware of the relationship between omega-3s and heart health, only less than half of Americans are currently ingesting omega-3s for this benefit.
Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids. This means that they are necessary for human health but the body can’t synthesize them; you have to ingest them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, some types of plants, and nut oils. Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in brain function in addition to normal growth and development. They also have become popular because they have been shown to reduce heart disease risk.
It is critical, however, to have a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower inflammation, while most omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation. The typical American diet tends to contain about 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.
On the other hand, the Mediterranean diet maintains a healthier balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Numerous studies have found that individuals who maintain this diet are less likely to develop heart disease. This form of diet does not include omega-6-rich meats and emphasizes omega-3 foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, as well as wine consumption.