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Exploring new ways to increase consumption of healthy polyunsaturated fats

Although eating oily fish is widely recognised to have beneficial effects on human health – including a reduced risk of coronary heart disease – most people in the UK do not eat enough of it. Now, in order to increase the consumption of the healthy n-3 polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish, scientists at the University of Reading are suggesting the possibility of ‘enriching’ foods that we eat more commonly, such as meat and poultry, with these healthy fats.

Writing in the June edition of the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin, Professor Ian Givens of the University’s Nutritional Sciences Research Unit argues that the recommended intakes of these types of fats are not being met in the majority of the population mainly because of low consumption of oil-rich fish.

Professor Givens said: “It’s an unfortunate fact that only about 27% of adults in this country eat any of the oil-rich fish which contain beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s also true that for much of the population, the contribution that animal-derived foods currently make to intake of these fatty acids, although small may be crucial.

“But in the future, animal-derived foods such as meat (especially poultry meat), dairy products and eggs are likely to have an important function in increasing intake of these fats, and studies have shown that feeding fish oils to animals can increase, or ‘enrich’, the polyunsaturated fat content of the resulting food products.

“Because of this, we felt there was a real need to examine the current and projected consumption trends of meat and other animal products, which could be enriched with the fats.”

There have been very large changes in the consumption of meat over the past 50 years: the decline in consumption of meat from cows and sheep, and the sustained increase in the consumption of poultry meat have been marked.

“The potential of enriched animal-derived foods, especially poultry meat, could be crucial in achieving increased intake of fatty acids,” said Professor Givens. “If successful and accepted by the consumer, this could prove to be a major advance in the health of the nation. Of course in the long term sources other than fish oil will be needed to ensure a sustainable supply of these important fatty acids.”

Craig Hillsley | alfa
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