According to dietary guidelines, Germans are encouraged to eat 150-220 g of fish per week, mainly in order to consume enough essential omega-3 fatty acids, thought to be particularly important in regenerating heart, brain and nerve cells. However, despite a high level of awareness that omega-3s are important for good health, and that fish is a particularly good source, few Germans consume enough fish.
Fraunhofer researchers say they saw an opportunity to add omega-3s to foods that were particularly popular in Germany, like bread, sausages, pasta and pizza, thereby increasing consumption – but first they had to overcome the fishy smell of omega-3 fats, which are susceptible to oxidation.
The researchers – from the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV in the Bavarian town of Freising – created a patented emulsion system combining different antioxidants. Some are intended to protect against oxidation, others support the effects of the first group, and others eliminate substances that accelerate fat degradation.
“The oxygen has to clear a lot of hurdles before it can react with the omega-3 fatty acids,” said Fraunhofer researcher Christian Zacherl. “Thanks to our method, the fatty acids remain stable and can be incorporated into a variety of foods. The emulsion can be adapted specifically to individual products. All we have to do, effectively, is vary the number and type of hurdles.”
The technology has been developed in conjunction with German food retailer Edeka, which introduced the first omega-3 fortified sausages using the technology under its own brand last month. The range includes nine different popular sausage varieties which, as well as containing significant amounts of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, also have lower overall fat content than regular sausages.
“We use specially processed fish oil that contains by itself over 90% of valuable fatty acids,” said Fraunhofer’s project manager Dr Peter Eisner. “For comparison, the original product contains only 30%. Because we optimized the fat balance in general, Edeka was able to reduce the total amount of fat.”