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The Food Industry's Greed: How Misleading Omega-3 Labeling Undermines American Health

Apr 1, 2008
There's an Omega-3 travesty a-foot and if the American consumer doesn't become aware of it very soon, they'll unfortunately know first hand the day inflammation rears its ugly head - and according to Harvard, for 3 out of 4 Americans, it already has.

FDA Qualifying Health Claim for EPA and DHA

When the FDA issued a Health Qualifying Claim for "EPA and DHA" from fatty fish in 2004, "Omega-3" became big business. So big, food manufacturers freely began substituting "ALA" (alpha-linolenic acid) for EPA and DHA in bread, cookies, pasta to yogurt and now, a line of soybean-fed pork items that are "enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids." The double-whammy contained in one ounce of those pork items is frightening with no end, supervision, or control in sight.

Is anyone home at the FDA?

Not only was ALA not part of the FDA Qualifying claim, science conclusively shows we convert Omega-3 ALA seed and plant oils into inflammatory Omega-6. And the end result? Consumers are being hoodwinked into purchasing these products while awareness of the health benefits from EPA and DHA are being compromised. How big of an issue is this? Read on and you'll see why the word "travesty" applies.

Omega-3 ALA

Omega-3 ALA is plant and seed oils, soybean, corn, safflower, flaxseed, all polyunsaturates, and while they may be lumped together and referred to as "Omega-3 fatty acids" all they share in common with EPA and DHA is the classification "Omega-3 fatty acids." There's a far cry between any health benefits from ALA and those science has conclusively contributed to EPA and DHA.

An astonishing 94% of Omega-3 products line shelves today contain ALA while 6% contain minute amounts of algae or algal oil.


Why is this so critical to the American consumer? Unless you've led a vegetarian lifestyle for years, rarely eat out, unknowingly you've been consuming an abundance of Omega-6s for decades hidden deceptively in packaged foods, snacks, cakes, dressings, as well as liberally used by restaurants and fast food chains. In other words, our bodies are so tipped in Omega-6s, we were in a state of perpetual inflammation before food manufacturers began adding more ALA to boast an Omega-3 label. How bad is this?

National Institutes of Health on Omega-6 Inflammation

Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, National institutes of Health, and world renowned Omega-3 researcher, and tireless crusader for American health, says:

"When you look at the percentages of Omega-6s to Omega-3s in the US diet, it's about 90% of all the polyunsaturates in our tissues are Omega 6s and about 10% are Omega 3s. So you had a one-to-one balance to inflammation when we were evolving, and now it's a 10-to-one balance in favor of inflammation because of the predominance in seed oils. Soybean oil is called the lubricant of the food industry, and it literally is."

William Lands, retired biochemist with the National Institutes of Health, had this to say:

About 1960, when "soybean oil took over the U.S. food chain, it was like a tsunami. These two types of fatty acids have a biochemical yin-and-yang relationship. While omega-3s reduce our body's inflammation response, Omega-6s encourage it. Each fatty acid is crucial. For example, if your inflammatory response is too weak, you won't be able to fight infection properly. And in theory, the push and pull should create perfect balance. Instead, the excess of Omega-6s in our diets may have left us in a perpetual state of inflammation. That's what's really killing us - the balance of Omega 3s to 6s got out of whack."

Center for Science in the Public Interest

And Bonnie Liebman, a nutritionist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says:

"It's all very confusing. Consumers are in real danger of being misled. Even a careful label reader won't learn, for instance that a carton of Breyers Smart DHA Omega-3 yogurt has less DHA than a teaspoon of salmon."

Consider this. Hellmann's Mayonnaise says "Naturally Rich In Omega-3" but remember, it's just a name. What's really in it? "Most mayonnaise is made with soybean oil which is a source of ALA. But that kind of Omega-3 fat, found most abundantly in flaxseed, has not been proven to convey the same health benefits as DHA plus EPA," Liebman says.

Omega-6s and Inflammation

That Omega-6s create inflammation that leads to diet-related disease, poor heart health, arachidonic acid, to name but a few, is scientifically established. If this information is hard to grasp, look at our health statistics. We have unprecedented numbers of childhood obesity, juvenile diabetes and with each passing year, according to Harvard, those numbers rise dramatically. Did children suddenly become ravenous eaters?

The rise in health issues and obesity crosses all age groups but this rise in children is the most telling of all. What is the common denominator? It's not the water supply - it's our food supply that packs pounds leaving our bodies in a perpetual state of inflammation.

How critical to health is this misleading labeling of Omega-3 ALA? Let's look at the conclusions of a 14 year study conducted by the National Cancer Institute about ALA:

"In this large prospective study, we found that ALA from non-animal sources and ALA from meat and dairy sources were associated or suggestively associated with an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer. This finding agrees with the finding of a single previous study that evaluated ALA intake by food source. EPA + DHA was suggestively related to a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, which was mainly due to DHA and to a lesser extent to EPA."

It is sad and disheartening that information from prestigious medical communities, globally, with study after study showing EPA and DHA are profoundly beneficial to a myriad of health issues from diet-related to cognitive, is becoming obscured and blinded by food manufacturers' hype. With their long reach and deep pockets, the health of a nation is on the line.

And the result? The every-day, hard-working consumer overwhelmed with little time to do any personal in-depth research assumes all Omegas are created equal.
About the Author
Lois Smithers spent years studying health and Omega-3 EPA DHA. Read her thoroughly researched, investigative expose,"The Food Industry's Greed:How Misleading Labeling of Omega-3 Foods Undermines American Health." Book and free Omega-3 newsletter:
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