In the recent years medical science has seen a rise in coronary heart diseases around the world. There is an understanding among the scientific community that a diet with good amount of omega-3 fatty acids can provide some extend of protection in this area (World Health Organization 22-23). According to the American Heart Association increased consumption of fish can be a good option for the heart health as it helps in the intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, especially the EPA and DHA (Kris-Etherton 2747-2757). Though the demand for fish and fish oil has increased in this regard, it may not be possible sustainable source for a long time.
While the availability is a major problem, the cost of fishes also restricts the poorer segment of the population from getting the benefit of it. Some people do not consume fish as they follow a vegetarian diet. To satisfy the need of omega-3 fatty acids to the entire population research on land based sustainable sources is required (Worm 787-790). While sustainability is a major problem with fishes, there are alarming levels of methyl mercury in some species of fishes. The over consumption of these fishes can lead to mercury poisoning.
Omega-3 fatty acids are now considered an essential part of growth and development and have several positive health implications particularly in the treatment of heart disease, arthritis, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and cancer (Simopoulos 560S-569S). The plant based sources of omega-3 fatty acids include soybeans, canola and flax that contain ALA. But ALA may not be as good as when compared to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids for heart health; however, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that ALA promotes heart health than there is for the longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids (Wang 5-17). Another source of omega-3 fatty acids is the Stearidonic acid (SDA 18:4n-3) that is available both in fish as well as plant source.
Soybeans are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, the oils from soybeans hold about 7% ALA and do not contain the desaturation enzyme required for formulating SDA, EPA or DHA (Lemke n.pg). With the development in field of bioengineering it is now possible to introduce the gene for enzyme production in soybean. Hence oils from these modified soybeans produce about 20 percent SDA. This has opened up a huge market for SDA in the field of Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals (FFN) and Natural Health Products (NHP).
Today the food supplement market is flourishing both in developed and developing nations. There is awareness regarding the health benefits particularly the cardio benefits of soy products among the general public. With the wide use of soybean components by the food industry, the genetically modified soy with SDA is also a great support in this process. It will be possible to generate numerous diverse omega-3 fortified foods (Lemke n.pg).
Studies conducted by James et al. (2003) found that EPA in red blood cells increases when EPA or SDA containing food is consumed. Where as those foods that contained ALA did not increase the EPA in the red blood cells. EPA in the red blood cells has good health implications for heart (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology 7-36). Researchers were able to transform canola to produce SDA. This process involved two genes from that came from the fungus Mortierella Alpina and also from canola for the three enzymes desirable to manufacture adequate SDA (Ursin 4271-4274).
Ursin (4271-4274) remodeled canola seeds to accumulate omega-3 fatty acid especially the stearidonic acid (SDA). As a result a good land-based source of functional omega-3 fatty acids is identified and can be produced on a large scale. Earlier, there was a derth of land-based omega-3 fatty acids having health benefits. These canola seeds can be produced on large areas of land. These can be easily delivered to consumers through a broad range of functional foods. Unlike ALA’s, SDA can provide EPA with moderate levels of consumption.
As a consequence of these studies, omega 3 fatty acid that once was thought to be only a non-vegetarian source has now become a vegetarian source that is available to a large number of people. Nutraceutical companies can produce SDA-enriched supplements and foods that will have various health benefits. Additionally these could become a precious means for delivering suggested levels of omega-3 fatty acids to populations (Ursin 4271-4274).
The genetically modified plants contained about 23% SDA in the seed oil. The researchers were able to develop canola having more than 55% of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and SDA. The amount of omega-6 fatty acids did not change and was about 22% as in the case of conventional canola (Ursin 4271-4274). According to the studies conducted by Monsanto Company, Stearidonic acid (SDA) omega-3 soybean oil has been determined to be Generally Recognized as Safe for use in a range of food products (Monsanto 3-8).
These studies concluded that eating foods that are rich in SDA results in the tissue enrichment of EPA. According to a study about 19% of cardiac problems are reduced in people consuming EPA. Therefore, the importance of EPA as a cardio supplement together with SDA provides greater scope for these in the field of Nutraceuticals.
SDA can be a significant contribution to nutritional product as it converts to EPA extensively in the RBCs and competently than ALA. Consequently, these EPA enriched RBCs reflect cardiac membrane omega-3 fatty acid content. Articulated as a fraction of total fatty acids, SDA has been established to associate with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, mainly the unexpected cardiac death (Lemke n.pg). Some studies point out that a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids is the reason for most of the cardiac problems and consequent deaths in US. A good number experimental studies present strong support for fish and fish oils that reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
However, the scientific community is yet to prove the superiority of EPA and DHA. SDA soybean oil as a result of several studies in bio-engineering can be a sustainable option in addition to fish and fish oils (Lemke n.pg). Today, the field of Functional foods and nutraceuticals has emerged to be fast growing field. Foods can be categorized as functional foods provided they satisfy the requirement in the form of bioactive molecules within them that diminish the threat of disease and promote good health.
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