December 1, 2012
Researchers Develop Omega-3 Enhanced Milk
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Good news for people who want to up their intake of omega-3 fatty acids without resorting to eating more fish: researchers at one US university have apparently found a way to add the heart-healthy substance to milk without altering the flavor of the beverage.
Writing in the November issue of the Journal of Dairy Science, a team of food science experts at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) claim that they have successfully added fish oil into milk and other dairy-based drinks "in amounts sufficient to promote heart health, without destroying the product's taste or limiting its lifespan."
They tested four different ratios of butter oil to fish oil in the production of pasteurized, omega-3 fortified beverages during their research, the school noted in a November 30 statement. They recruited more than two dozen volunteers to evaluate the product, comparing their fish oil-enhanced skim milk (which contained 78 parts butter oil to 22 parts fish oil) to regular 2 percent milk.
"We couldn't find any aroma differences," said Susan E. Duncan, a professor of food science and technology at Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture 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."
"I think the dairy industry can look at our study and determine whether it is plausible to modify its products," she added. "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."
According to the university, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to help stave off heart disease, improve the development of an infant's brain and keep an adult's mind functioning at a high level, among other things. They note that the American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fatty fish per week, citing previous research which shows that omega-3s can help prevent heart arrhythmias, lower triglyceride levels, lower a person's blood pressure, and slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaque.
"But fish hasn't caught on with everyone, making room for new foods and beverages fortified with omega-3s in an expanding marketplace," Virginia Tech officials said, adding that if a product such as their omega-3 enhanced milk happened to catch on with customers, "the next step for researchers is to follow groups of volunteers in an epidemiological study of whether the food improves health outcomes."