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Robby Gardner is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles, specializing in fresh produce and health food ingredients.
Do these plant membranes have what it takes for superior omega-3 protection?
Updated 4/15/15: The photo originally published in this article has been removed.
Omega-3 oils are susceptible to oxidation. This unfortunate but totally natural reaction is what can causes rancidity, off flavors, and loss of viable fatty acids in omega-3 products over time. While one response to this problem is the use of microencapsulation systems-designed to encapsulate and thus protect the sensitive oil from outside oxidation-some of these systems are not affordable outside of the pharmaceutical space (with exception, perhaps, to the system shown above). The alternatives are not as efficient.
“The issue has not been resolved,” says SinÃ©ad Bleiel, founder and director of the encapsulation solutions provider AnaBio Technologies Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland). “Many companies try to spray-dry formulations to minimize oxidation. It improves stability somewhat, but it’s at the stage where manufacturers can’t provide three-year shelf life and guarantee that oxidation isn’t still occurring.” Infant formula, for instance, must have at least a 36-month shelf life and it must also contain omega fatty acids, particularly DHA and ARA. But if these essential nutrients aren’t lasting for three years, this presents a significant problem for what is a very sensitive baby population.
To respond to this problem, AnaBio developed an economical and plant-based microencapsulation system (an image can be seen above) that the company claims can more efficiently preserve these and other omega-3s in various human and animal products. “We have a patented technology where we make capsules with an aqueous core,” says Bleiel. “Essentially, we have an omega-3 oil core, and the membrane on the capsules is impermeable to the diffusion of oxidation, and that’s what prevents the oils inside from oxidizing.” While there is some mystery surrounding just what materials are involved in AnaBio’s patented technology, the materials are non-allergenic and approved as kosher and Halal-and it sounds like they really work.
In-house data on infant formula suggests that AnaBio’s technology can increase the stability of DHA and ARA in these products as much as 72% compared to free form DHA and ARA, after 18 months at room temperature. “We maintained the full bioavailability of the ingredient, and we could show that it is still absorbed in an efficient way,” says Bleiel.
Krill oil presents another application for AnaBio’s technology because, even though krill oil naturally contains compounds such astaxanthin esters, which may make it more stable than fish oil, natural protections are likely not enough for the long haul of many months’ storage. Anabio says there is currently no technology in use for stabilizing krill after its extraction, but its new encapsulation system reduced DHA oxidation by 76% after 22 months of storage at 35°C.
Anabio’s technology is now available for individual licensing, and it can be used with fish oil, krill oil, and some omega-3 mixtures.
Nutritional Outlook magazine