Review: Using technology to overcome barriers to omega-3 digestion and absorption


Nutritional Scientist, Advanced Food Ingredients, Evonik Operations GmbH, Kirschenallee, Darmstadt, Germany


The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential to health. When deposited into the cell membrane, the presence of EPA and DHA directly alter a number of important activities that have the potential for a system-wide effect downstream. With a relatively low average omega-3 status detected at the population-level globally, and only limited sources of EPA and DHA available in the diet, it is important that effective supplementary omega-3 is accessible. Currently EPA and DHA are delivered in dietary supplements in the form of ethyl ester, triglyceride or free fatty acid, each presenting their own unique barriers to the optimization of digestibility and bioavailability that requires the intervention of technology.

Omega-3 fatty acids – in this case, specifically Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – are essential to the normal functioning of the body. This is due to the human body being unable to manufacture omega-3 fatty acids itself, thus resulting in complete reliance on food sources and/or dietary supplements to maintain a healthy omega-3 status (1). Available sources of EPA and DHA in the diet are limited to oily fish and certain types of algae (2), whereas the omega-3 fatty acid Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), a dietary precursor to EPA and DHA, is available in plant food sources such as vegetable oils (i.e. flax, canola) (1).


When we consume omega-3s, whilst they will circulate in the blood for a certain amount of time, ultimately a proportion will be deposited into cell membranes (1). This is a critical step – particularly for the cell membranes in tissues such as the retina (in the eye), the brain and myocardium (heart muscle). For these tissues there is a particularly dense accumulation of omega-3 fatty acids to facilitate normal functioning of the organ or tissue (1).< ...