Researchers claim enriched poultry products could meet global demand for omega-3

New research has proved consuming omega-3 enriched chicken and eggs can help combat one of world’s main health problems, high blood pressure.

The findings – from a study delivered by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, on behalf of sustainable food specialists Devenish – show that eating chicken and eggs naturally enriched with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can help lower blood pressure.

Published today (September 22) in Scientific Reports (one of Nature’s research journals), the study links eating naturally enriched omega-3 chicken meat and eggs with improved omega-3 levels and lower blood pressure.

Both effects are strongly associated with protection from heart attacks, strokes, dementia and depression.

The chicken and eggs used in the study came from birds fed with OmegaPro, a sustainable, algae-based source of omega-3 PUFAs developed by Devenish.

Prof. Alice Stanton of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and director of human health at Devenish, led the study.

“High blood pressure or ‘hypertension’ is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke and a common cause of premature death,” she said.

An estimated 1.13 billion people worldwide are living with hypertension. Fewer than one in five people with hypertension have the problem under control.

“It is already well known that eating oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel, that are rich in the long-chain omega-3 PUFAs, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), lowers blood pressure.

“However, most people in the world do not consume the internationally recommended amount of one serving of oily fish per week.

“Indeed, some people eat no fish at all and as a result, less than 20% of the world’s population have optimal omega-3 PUFA levels in their bodies,” Prof. Stanton said.

Trials

In a double-blinded, randomised controlled trial, 161 adults were randomly allocated to eat at least three portions per week of chicken meat and eggs, either standard foods or naturally enriched with sustainable, algae-based omega-3 DHA and EPA PUFAs.

It showed those who ate the enriched foods had clinically relevant reductions in diastolic blood pressure.

The blood pressure reduction of 3mm Hg observed in the trial would be expected to translate into a 15% reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.

“These findings reinforce our understanding that chicken and eggs naturally enriched with omega-3 DHA and EPA may provide the same numerous health benefits as eating oily fish,” Professor Stanton added.

Dr. Eamon Dolan, Stroke Consultant at Connolly Hospital, chairman of the Blood Pressure Council of the Irish Heart Foundation, and also a study investigator, said: “I am very excited about the results of this study. The focus of my clinical practice is the prevention of strokes, heart attacks and dementia.

A key challenge is achieving good patient compliance or ‘buy-in’ to what we advise. What appeals to me about this project is that the dietary changes tested in this study will be very acceptable and affordable to a wide range of patients and to the general public – many people, including children and older people, already regularly eat chicken meat and eggs.

“Now, in addition to, or as an alternative to oily fish, we will be able to advise regular consumption of omega-3 enriched chicken meat and eggs as a great source of these protective nutrients.”

Meeting global demand for omega-3

“Devenish’s research and development strategy is centred around innovating environmentally conscious food solutions that improve nutrition and health throughout the food chain, from soil to animals, to humans, and to the environment,” comments Dr. Eva Lewis, head of food innovation at Devenish.

“Our goal is to create solutions that give people access to safe, nutritious food across the globe in a sustainable way.

We know people do not consume enough oily fish, nor is there enough oily fish produced to meet the global demand.

“This inspired Devenish to find a way of naturally enriching foods that are both widely consumed and relatively affordable – namely chicken and eggs.

“We believe this could become an effective alternative to eating oily fish or taking omega-3 supplements and ultimately have a significant positive impact on the health of the global population.”