Food and Behaviour Research

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10 Feb 2005 - JHCI - Health Claim for Omega-3 fatty acids approved


FAB Research receives numerous enquiries about the 'recommended' levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. This independent review of the scientific evidence by the JHCI supports an earlier statement by the leading body of scientific experts in this area, the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL), which concluded that adults should aim to consume an average of around 500mg of EPA + DHA per day to maintain a healthy heart and circulation.

No such claims have yet been approved for the benefits of omega-3 for mental health and development. More evidence for this is still needed (which studies by FAB Research scientists are helping to provide). However, the existing evidence already indicates that the same dietary factors that promote physical health are also good for the brain.

It should be noted that this health claim only applies to the longer-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated acids (those with more than 20 carbon atoms).

  • These include EPA and DHA (found in oily fish and seafood)
  • They do not include alpha-linolenic acid (found in green leafy vegetables and some nuts and seeds)

See our FAB Research factsheet for further information on dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids

The UK Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI) has concluded its deliberations on a generic health claim for for LC n-3 PUFA and heart health. The claim may now be applied to appropriate foods under the conditions set out in the JHCI report.

The JHCI is a unique joint venture between consumer organisations, enforcement authorities and industry trade associations in the UK to establish a Code of Practice for health claims on food. After considering the totality of the scientific evidence, the JHCI concluded that this substantiates the following health claim:

  • Eating 3g weekly, or 0.45g daily, long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, as part of a healthy lifestyle, helps maintain heart health.

Interested readers should consult the JCHI website (see below) for the full report - including the dossier of scientific evidence reviewed - and the full recommendations. The JHCI specifically recommends that any products carrying the claim should:

1. Include the statement: 'The Government advises that at least 2 servings of fish, one of which should be oily, containing approximately 3g LC n-3 PUFA, is consumed each week'.

2. For fortified foods and supplements, inform consumers that oil-rich fish is an alternative source of LC n-3 PUFA.

3. When a product is presented as a stand alone serving, then each serving must contain no less than 0.2g LC n-3 PUFA.

4. When a product carries a recommendation for a number of portions per day or week then

  • the total LC n-3 PUFA content of the daily recommendation (daily serving) must be greater than 0.2g.
  • the total LC n-3 PUFA content of the weekly recommendation (weekly serving) must be greater than 0.5g.

5. Not personalise the claim to the individual, e.g. "provides half your daily needs".

6. State the proportion (i.e. a 'quarter', 'third', 'half' etc) of the 0.45g daily intake, or 3g weekly intake, in each serving or portion.

7. Clarify the distinction between servings of a product and portions of oily fish.

8. Clarify to consumers when products have been fortified with LC n-3 PUFA and make clear to consumers the origin of the oil.

9. Products containing significant amounts of contaminants (identified by the SACN/COT Inter-Committee Subgroup to be marlin, swordfish, shark and, to a lesser extent, tuna) carrying the claim should also carry a warning for pregnant women and children.