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Omega-3 Fatty Acids Get New Health Claim

Fish, Other Products With Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Tout Their Heart-Healthy Benefits
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New Health Claim Headed to Grocery Stores Soon continued...

"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.

Fitting Fish Into a Healthy Diet

Although fish oil supplements or foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids will be allowed to carry the qualified health claim if they meet the FDA's requirements, experts say it's usually best to go straight to the source in order to reap the most heart-healthy benefits.

"I'd rather see people eating fish than taking fish oil capsules unless they are recommended by a physician," says registered dietitian Nelda Mercer, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

"When you eat fish, you're not only adding the health benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids, but you're subtracting saturated fat by substituting fish for other food sources that are higher in saturated fat, like steak," Mercer tells WebMD.

That means that how you eat and prepare fish is also important.

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