Oils and spreads are already formulated with these ingredients, but the combined approach is new.
Researchers in the Netherlands, including some from Unilever, just completed a study on margarine containing plant sterols and fish oil. While plant sterols and omega-3s have become popular add-ons for low-fat spreads like margarine, there is little research on their use in combination. By filling this gap, Unilever would help its own product line.
In a trial on 85 men and 247 women with high cholesterol, researchers found that those who were assigned to margarine with plant sterols and fish oil had much better heart health indications than subjects consuming control margarine. The effect was seen with daily margarine consumption for just four weeks. Researchers used a fix dose of 2.5 g/day of plant sterols in the margarine, but they varied the fish oil dosage between 0.9 g/day and 1.8 g/day. Compared to the control margarine, margarine formulated with fish oil and plant sterols significantly reduced levels of blood triglycerides (as much as 16%) and LDL cholesterol (by a median of 13%).
Unilever already has its own Becel pro.activ and Flora pro.activ brands of margarine with plant sterols. The new data, now published in the Journal of Nutrition, could lead to the inclusion of fish oil in these products.
Nutritional Outlook magazine
Photo © iStockphoto.com/robynmac