Our food chain is blindly starving us of essential DHA – How to avert this public health crisis with algae

Written by: Judy Hower

Jun 04
Our food chain is blindly starving us of essential DHA – How to avert this public health crisis with algae Philip Wilkinson, 2 Sisters Food Group, Harrowgate, Yorks., UK, explains Omega-3 DHA and its importance.

The bad news:  DHA deficiency has been shown to increase the risk for the development of cardiovascular disease and age-related cognitive decline.

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid, and is an omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for proper human development and health. Notably, it plays critical roles in heart, eye and brain function. Unfortunately recent shortages in oily fish supplies have led to a decline in the DHA content of fish that we find commonly in our grocery stores. Because fish is the most prominent source of DHA in the human diet, DHA intake concerns are nothing new. Fish intake is low among many consumers and a taste for fish is often slow to be acquired by children. 

The good news: The animal agriculture industry is uniquely positioned to help reverse this public health crisis in a way that is natural, sustainable, and kind to animals, by simply adding DHA-rich algae to animal feed supplies.

Philip Wilkinson, Executive Director of 2 Sisters Food Group, told participants at Alltech’s 30th Annual International Symposium, “The food industry has a responsibility to promote public health.”

Today’s food industry trends include food safety, animal welfare, and sustainability, and algae have the ability to connect all of those dots. “There has never been a more compelling sustainability story in the history of the food industry than the story of algae,” said Wilkinson. “For example, consider this:   Alltech’s algae production facility in Winchester, Kentucky, can take a single 1.5 ML vial of algae, and in just 10 days, grow it to 20 metric tons of biomass.  

What is holding us back? We need to tell the story!  By feeding DHA-rich algae to our livestock we open the door to enriching meat and eggs and broadening access to DHA in the human diet.  And in feeding algae to our animals, they too will enjoy DHA health benefits.

In his talk, Wilkinson emphasized the importance of the food enrichment process, whereby DHA is incorporated into animal tissue via a natural digestive process. That means no more oily fish flavored supplements to take! We can enjoy the tastes of the foods we already like to eat while reaping the great benefits of DHA.

This approach stands in sharp contrast to traditional food fortification practices in which supplemented nutrients are simply piggybacked onto foods during processing, often delivering nutrients in forms the human body cannot efficiently absorb and utilize.

Who will be the winners when this story catches hold? Consumers with easy access to a healthier diet, farmers with healthier animals, retailers with value-added functional food products, and government leaders who are charged with the responsibility to guard public health and safety.

Yes, the food industry is indeed a human wellness business!

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