Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

November 26, 2003

Omega-3 bread gives health benefits without fishy taste, U of G study finds

University of Guelph researchers have found that dried fish powder baked into bread is absorbed by the body as effectively as fish oil supplements.

Nutritional sciences professor William Bettger, adjunct professor Julie Conquer and graduate student Terry McKay added microencapsulated fish oil to bread in order to give people omega-3 fatty acids through a commonly consumed food.

"Although the health benefits of oily fish are well-known, many Canadians still aren't getting a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids because they're turned off by the taste or smell of fish or find it difficult to swallow the large soft-gel fish oil capsules," said Conquer. "Now that we know the body can get the omega-3s it needs through bread enriched with fish oil, it opens up the way people can make fatty acids part of their diet."

Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease and mental disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and are necessary for properly maintaining human health from conception to childhood and throughout life. The body lacks the ability to make adequate amounts of some omega-3s for chronic disease treatment and prevention, so they have to be ingested through oily fish such as salmon, trout and tuna or through supplements.

To determine how effectively the body absorbs fish oil added to bread, the researchers conducted a study involving two groups. Each day for three weeks, group one took four fish oil soft-gel capsules and group two ate one-third of a loaf of bread enriched with fish oil, giving both groups a daily dose of 1,080 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. After a three-week washout period, the groups switched regimens.

Blood samples were drawn at the beginning and end of the study to measure the participants' levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA, one of the most important omega-3 fatty acids, is a major component of brain and eye tissue; EPA has anti-inflammatory properties. The results show that the participants consuming the omega-3 bread absorbed the same amount of fatty acids as did the group that took fish oil supplements.

Regardless of how the participants received their omega-3 fatty acids, they showed significant increases in DHA and EPA levels compared with their pre-study levels. "Individuals who are taking fish oil capsules now have the option of reverting to a functional food to supplement their diets with omega-3 fatty acids knowing they won't lose any potential health benefit," said Conquer. "People who aren't currently getting a daily dose of omega-3 could easily add it to their diet through something they probably already eat every day, bread, just by choosing a brand enriched with fish oil."

The bread used in the study, made in a conventional bread machine, was eaten as part of a meal and could be topped with cheese, peanut butter or other condiments. Study participants said they couldn't detect the presence of the fish oil in the bread.

Although there are products enriched with omega-3 fatty acids already available, such as eggs, milk and processed foods, little data exist on the changes in EPA and DHA levels after eating these products. Bread enriched with low levels of microencapsulated fish oil is already available in several countries, including Australia and Britain.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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