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Consumers May Get Their Omega-3 Through Cows Rather Than Fish

Tim Boyer's picture
Omega-3 through cows

For people who cannot stand to eat fish that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, researchers have found a novel way to get people to consume Omega-3 fatty acids without ever having to deal with a fishy after-taste. As reported in the November issue of the Journal of Dairy Science, fortifying cow milk with Omega-3 fatty acids, surprisingly, leads to an undetectable smell or taste of fish oil while providing heart healthy Omega-3s, Vitamin D and calcium at the same time in a glass of milk.

Furthermore, the researchers have determined that supplementing cow milk with fish oil does not affect the shelf life of milk.

The research stems from observations that the majority of people fail to get their recommended daily dose of Omega-3 fatty acids. In part this is due to that many people find fresh fish too expensive or too inconvenient to eat regularly, do not like the taste of fish, or find that many Omega-3 fish oil supplement pills leave behind an unpleasant aftertaste.

According to health resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests a daily consumption of 250 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids per day for preventing coronary disease, reducing inflammation, assisting infant brain development, and maintaining a healthy brain in aging adults.

Furthermore, the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week based on research that has shown consuming omega-3 fatty acids decreases the risk heart arrhythmias, decreases triglyceride levels, inhibits atherosclerotic plaque development and lowers hypertension.

According to a news release issued by Virginia Tech, the study where milk was fortified with fish oil involved 25 volunteer participants who sampled one-ounce cups of regular 2% milk in comparison to samples of skim milk that contained 78 parts of butter oil to 22 parts of fish oil

"We couldn't find any aroma differences," said Susan E. Duncan, a professor of food science and technology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "We were concerned the fish oil would undergo a chemical process called oxidation, which would shorten the milk's shelf life, or the milk would acquire a cardboard or paint flavor by reacting with the fish oil. It appears we have a product that is stable, with no chemical taste or smell issues."

The researchers were able to fortify the milk with up to 432 milligrams of fatty acids per cup without causing a detectable difference between it and regular milk that was not fortified with fish oil.

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"I think the dairy industry can look at our study and determine whether it is plausible to modify its products," Dr. Duncan said. "I would like to help people who love milk, yogurt, and dairy, which have intrinsic nutritional value, address an additional need in their diets, especially if they don't like to eat fish or can't afford it. One of these dairy servings a day apparently is enough to sustain enough continuous omega-3 to benefit heart health."

Dr. Duncan says that the next step would be to perform an epidemiological study to determine whether the fish oil-fortified foods actually improves health outcomes on test subjects.

While adding fish oil to milk may seem like a sour idea to most, it should be remembered that milk has a history as a delivery vehicle for other nutrients, such as being fortified with Vitamin D to prevent rickets as pointed out by Kerry E. Kaylegian, a dairy foods research and extension associate with Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

The news release credits Kaylegian with stating that, "It was a good approach to address a dietary deficiency disease, because so many people drink milk, which is already loaded with nutrients. This study describes fortification of milk with omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. We can't say lack of those compounds definitively causes cardiac disease, but there is evidence that they protect us and contribute to heart and brain health. Milk would be a good delivery vehicle for those nutrients."

For two informative articles about a Consumer Reports comparison of fish oil supplements, follow the links to the articles titled "Is There Something Fishy About Your Fish Oil? Consumer Reports Says Yes" and "Consumer Reports Asks: Fish Oil or Krill Oil?"

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFIle


Journal of Dairy Research
"Oxidative stability of an extended shelf-life dairy-based beverage system designed to contribute to heart health" Vol. 95, Issue 11; Pages 6242-6251, November 2012; R.L. Moore et al.

Virginia Tech News



I would call dairy products perhaps the most unhealthy food to be used as a carrier for omega 3's. But I have to admit, I am against anything that is in any way against nature. As there is in early infancy a time for suckling, there is also a time to wean.
Grass-fed cows would already have Omega-3 in their milk. Now we have grain-fed cows so we want to add Omega-3 in afterwards? How about we just start feeding cows what they were engineered by evolution to eat?