Introduction: Greater consumption of oily fish, and elevated plasma levels of the long-chain marine-derived omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), have been strongly and consistently associated with a reduced incidence of heart attacks, strokes, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers. Despite international guidelines recommending eating oily fish at least once per week (≥250mg/day DHA and EPA), many people do not eat fish, and only a small minority of the world’s population have optimal omega-3-PUFA levels (Omega-3 Index (%DHA+EPA of total fatty acids) >8%). Hence, in this project, we studied the recently developed alternatives to oily fish or supplementation, namely chicken-meat and eggs naturally enriched with algae-sourced omega-3-PUFAs.
Methods: This was a double-blind, controlled, randomized trial. Using a 2X2 factorial design, 161 healthy participants were randomized to eat at least 3 portions/week of omega-3-PUFA enriched (or control) chicken-meat, and to eat at least 3 omega-3-PUFA enriched (or control) eggs/week, for 6 months.
Results: Eating enriched eggs, enriched chicken-meat and the combination for 6 months resulted in 11μg/g (9%, p=0.03), 16μg/g (17%, p=0.003) and 24μg/g (25%, p<0.0001) increments in plasma DHA levels, respectively. Eating omega-3 enriched chicken-meat resulted in a 9μg/g (38%, p=0.02) increment in plasma EPA levels. Eating the enriched foods resulted in a substantial shift in the omega-3 index distribution (see figure).
Conclusions: Regular consumption of omega-3-PUFA enriched chicken-meat and eggs led to an increase in plasma omega-3-PUFA levels, and a halving in the number of subjects with a high risk omega-3 index. Omega-3-PUFA enriched chicken-meat and eggs offers consumers an attractive alternative to eating oily fish or to lifelong taking of supplements, with the potential for substantial human health benefits.