|Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have two major field of interest. The first lies in their quantitative abundance and their role in the development and maintenance of the brain. The second is their role in the prevention of different pathologies, mainly the cardiovascular diseases, and more lately some psychiatric disorders, from stress to depression and dementia. Thus, dietary omega-3 fatty acids are very important to ensure brain structure and function, more specifically during development and aging.
However, concerning essential alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), most occidental diets contain about 50 % of the recommended dietary allowances. The problem is to know which foods are naturally rich in this fatty acid, and to determine the true impact of the formulations (enriched in omega-3 fatty acids, either ALA or EPA and DHA) in chows used on farms and breeding centres on the nutritional value of the products (meat, butter, milk and dairy products, cheese, and eggs, etc), and thus their effect on the health of consumers, especially to ensure adequate quantities in the diet of the aging people.
The consequences (qualitative and quantitative) of modifications in the composition of animal foods on the value of derived products consumed by humans are more marked when single-stomach animals are concerned than multi-stomach animals. Because, for example, hydrogenating intestinal bacteria of the latter group transform a large proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids in their food into saturated fatty acids, among others, thus depriving them of any biological interest.
Under the best conditions, by feeding animals with extracts of linseed and rapeseed grains for example, the level of ALA acid is increased approximately two-fold in beef and six-fold in pork, ten-fold in chicken, and forty-fold in eggs. By feeding animals with fish extracts or algae (oils) the level of DHA is increased about 2-fold in beef, 7-fold in chicken, 6-fold in eggs, and 20-fold in fish (salmon). To obtain such results, it is sufficient to respect only the physiological needs of the animal, which was generally the case with traditional methods.
It is important to stress the role of fish, whose nutritional value for humans in terms of lipids (determined by omega-3 fatty acid levels) can vary considerably according to the type of fats the animals have been fed. The aim of preventing some aspects of cardiovascular disease (and other pathologies) can be achieved, or on the contrary frustrated, depending on the nature of fatty acids present in fish flesh, the direct consequence of the nature of fats with which they have been fed. It is the same for eggs, "omega- 3 eggs" being in fact similar to natural eggs, were used in the formulation of certain formula milks for infants, whose composition was closest to that of breast milk. In fact, the additional cost on the price paid by the consumer is modest compared to the considerable gain in nutritional value in terms of omega-3 fatty acids content.
Interestingly, in aged people, ALA recommendations in France are increased (0.8% daily energy intake in adult, 0.9 % in aged) and DHA is multiplied by 2 (0.05 % daily energy intake in adult, 0.1 % in aged; as well as in pregnant and lactating women).