The critical role played by long chain Omega-3 fatty acids in maintaining good health, especially brain development, is well established. During pregnancy the intake of this nutrient by the mother and after the birth, intake by the child till the age of 3 determines the pace of brain development. Solid foundation for a healthy and productive life is laid during this time. Subsequent intake has only marginal effect but still necessary to prevent degeneration of neural cells. Major source of Omega-3 fatty acids has been several species of fish but those not habituated to eat fish will have to depend on a variety of foods containing smaller levels of these nutrients or short chain Omega-3 acids like ALA. Lately algae is becoming a good source of long chain Omega 3 acids and commercial technology is now available for large scale production for food fortification.
"The science relating to the health benefits of omega-3 gets stronger and stronger," Ruess stated. "Suppliers have overcome a lot of the technical hurdles for handling omega-3 oils and have progressed in producing various forms, which can be used successfully in a wide range of end-products in foods, beverages, supplements and infant formulas." Analysts estimated the global consumption of marine and algal omega-3 ingredients for 2008 at 71,452 tonnes. North America came first at 26,948 tonnes, Asia-Pacific came second at 21,145 tonnes, followed by the European Union (EU) at 13,596 tonnes and other countries at 5,762 tonnes, AP-Food Technology reports."The [consumption] growth rate has averaged 30-40 per cent annually during the last few years. We still expect significant growth in the next several years," said Frost & Sullivan analyst Chris Shanahan. There is strong and growing scientific evidence on the health benefits of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic)-based omega-3, he said".
Indian food industry will be keenly looking forward to pure, odorless and concentrated Omega-3 fatty acid preparations for enriching a variety of processed products without tainting them. Such products, if and when available, can be a boon to the Indian consumer, most of them depending on diets containing low levels of Omega-3 acids. Alga, being not considered as non-vegetarian, can be acceptable as a source which will enable food industry to include"green dot" on the label signifying its vegetarian pedigree.