The regular consumption of naturally enriched omega-3 chicken and eggs is likely to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, dementia and depression.

This is according to the results of a clinical trial delivered by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on behalf of Belfast-headquartered farming and food company Devenish.

The results of this six-month clinical trial were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions Conference in Anaheim, California on Tuesday, November 14.

As part of the study, 161 subjects consumed at least three portions of chicken and eggs per week - that were naturally enriched with omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA), the same nutrients found in oily fish.

OmegaPro, an algae-based source of omega-3 PUFA developed by Devenish, was offered to the birds of which the chicken and eggs for the study were sourced.

Greater consumption of oily fish has long been linked to a reduced incidence of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer and improved brain health, vision, muscle and joint health, according to Prof. Alice Stanton of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

“International guidelines recommend eating oily fish at least once per week, however, many people do not eat fish at all and less than 20% of the world’s population have optimal omega-3 PUFA levels.

“Therefore, in this project we studied the recently-developed alternatives to oily fish or supplementation - namely chicken meat and eggs, naturally enriched with sustainable algae-based omega-3 PUFA.

Omega-3 enriched chicken and eggs offer consumers an attractive alternative to eating oily fish or to the lifelong taking of supplements, with the potential for substantial health benefits.

This science has demonstrated the importance of food nutrients to promote good health and prevent ill health, Dr. Heather Hayes, director of Food Innovation with Devenish, said.

"We are also focusing our research efforts on producing sustainable and nutrient-rich pork, beef and milk, with scientifically-proven health claims. Omega-3 is just one nutrient that we are interested in - we are working on others too," she added.

Devenish works closely with Moy Park, Waitrose and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to deliver an innovative, nutrient-rich food that increases omega-3 levels in consumers naturally.

This innovation starts on the farm, according to Devish's executive chairman Owen Brennan.

“The farmer has a key role to play in delivering sustainable and nutritious food with a health claim. Devenish is working hard to increase the opportunity for consumers to benefit from this nutrient-rich food, as less than 20% of the world’s population is eating enough Omega-3," he concluded.