Skip to content

Food & Recipes

Font Size

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Get New Health Claim

Fish, Other Products With Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Tout Their Heart-Healthy Benefits

WebMD Health News

Sept. 8, 2004 -- Coming to a fish market near you: "Tuna tackles heart disease," and "Salmon saves lives."

Well, not exactly, but under a new qualified health claim announced today by the FDA, shoppers can expect to see a lot of new food labels and advertisements that tout the heart-healthy benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.

The FDA now says it will allow foods and supplements containing eiscosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids to carry a qualified health claim that says eating the product may reduce the risk of heart disease.

"The FDA has concluded that while these particular fatty acids are not essential to the diet, they may be beneficial in reducing coronary heart disease," says acting FDA commissioner Lester M. Crawford, MD. "It is our hope that this new health claim will assist consumers as they work to improve their diets by selecting the right foods to improve their health."

DHA and EPA are omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, lake trout, and herring, and in algae. The new qualified health claim does not apply to other types of fatty acids, such as those found in plants and olive oil.

In approving the qualified health claim, the FDA says there is good scientific evidence to support the claim that eating products containing omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart disease, but the evidence is not entirely conclusive.

It's the second qualified health claim the FDA has approved for a conventional food. Last year, it allowed a similar heart-healthy qualified health claim to be included on packaging and advertisements for nuts.

The FDA introduced qualified health claims in 2003 as a part program that ranks scientific evidence behind health claims of food products. Under the new system, the FDA allows food and supplement manufacturers to make qualified health claims about their products as long as they contain an appropriate disclaimer.

New Health Claim Headed to Grocery Stores Soon

In its decision, the FDA has approved the following language for qualified health claims that may appear on the label or in advertisements for foods or supplements containing EPA or DHA:

"Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of [name of food] provides [x] grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. [See nutrition information for total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol content.]"

The label must state how much of the omega-3 fatty acids the product contains, but the FDA did not set a minimum level of omega-3 fatty acids that the products must contain in order to carry the qualified health claim.

"In our review of the science that's available for this qualified health claim, we determined that we couldn't really set a minimum amount," says Barbara Schneeman, PhD, director of the FDA's Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements. "We felt it was more important that consumers just be informed of how much they would be consuming in a particular product."

The new qualified health claim also applies to dietary supplements, but the FDA recommends that total daily intake of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids not exceed three grams per day with no more than two grams per day from a dietary supplement. Getting more than that may lead to slower blood clotting and bleeding problems.

Today on WebMD

Four spoons with mustards
What condiments are made of and how much to use.
salmon and spinach
How to get what you need.
grilled veggies
Easy ideas for dinner tonight.
Greek Salad
Health benefits, what you can eat and more.

WebMD Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.

roasted chicken
grilled steak

Loaded with tips to help you avoid food allergy triggers.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

vegetarian sandwich
fresh vegetables
Foods To Boost Mens Heath Slideshow