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Stoking up omega-3 content in the diet

European research has delved into the biochemistry of fat metabolism and insulin sensitivity. The results have been turned into a range of products to increase omega-3 fatty acid intake.
Stoking up omega-3 content in the diet
The 'Diet, genomics and the metabolic syndrome: an integrated nutrition, agro-food, social and economic analysis' (Lipgen) project aimed primarily to provide a recipe to manage the adverse effects of excess body fat.

Lipgen based its investigation on the Kanwu study that researched individuals with the so-called metabolic syndrome. An array of medical disorders, the metabolic syndrome increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The results of the Kanwu study suggested that the level and composition of dietary fat could significantly influence insulin regulation in glucose metabolism achieving an answer to obesity-related diabetes.

Project researchers also used 1,400 subjects from an 8-year French study, the 'Supplémentation en Vitamines et Minéraux Antioxydants' (SU.VI.MAX). Lipgen's overall research strategy was to extend Kanwu's range of dietary intervention, increase the study size and duration, and introduce more measures of dietary intervention impact. The scientists also used cell and animal models to probe the biochemistry of the metabolic syndrome.

On dietary analysis and blood biochemistry testing, Lipgen found that a low-fat diet enabled significant weight loss. Most responsive was the group on habitually lower fat than 36 % of energy sources. In particular, females on a high monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) diet showed increased insulin sensitivity.

Perhaps most exciting, Lipgen found that the fatty acid tetradecylthioacetic acid (TTA) that regulates lipid homeostasis dramatically reduced body fat in rats without changing food intake. The biochemistry behind this is the up-regulated oxidation of absorbed dietary lipids.

Human studies showed that the post-prandial period after a high-fat meal was particularly significant. Several key pathways involved in fat and insulin regulation changed in this phase. Lipgen have recommended that future studies should focus on the period after a meal to see the long-term effects of dietary fat on insulin.

Based on their results, Lipgen developed five everyday foods with lipid profiles in line with the metabolic syndrome containing certain essential fatty acids and an overall reduction of saturated and increase of MUFA content. The new range included a poultry product, two spreads and a salad oil with increased levels of three omega-3 fatty acids.

An online study on the food prototypes and the metabolic syndrome messages showed that consumers, rather than rejecting the information, would accept agro-food technology to supply products to increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids. With the help of scientific research and consumer support, adverse effects of the metabolic syndrome could be significantly reduced.

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