What role do omega-3s play in sports nutrition?

10 Jul 2018

Omega-3 fatty acids have increasingly become part of athletes’ nutritional regime over the past few years but research supporting their role in sports nutrition is still in its early stages.

What role do omega-3s play in sports nutrition?

Omega-3 supplementation for sportspeople tends to be focused on general wellbeing, as about 80% of the world’s population is thought to consume less than 250 mg per day, according to a 2016 review. The European Food Safety Authority concluded in 2009 that 250 mg should be the reference intake value for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, and an analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2011 also identified 250 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3s as the threshold for cardiac risk reduction.

Many of the most well-established benefits of omega-3s are cardiovascular-related, such as reducing levels of triglycerides and blood cholesterol, and maintaining normal blood pressure and cardiac function, so it makes sense to ensure sportspeople have adequate levels.

However, researchers and suppliers have turned their attention to the specific performance and recovery-related benefits that could be associated with omega-3s. Indeed, omega-3s are emerging as an important consideration in sports nutrition, on the one hand for their contribution to athletes’ overall health, and on the other primarily for their anti-inflammatory effects.

Krill-derived omega-3 supplier Aker BioMarine, for example, has conducted its own research suggesting supplementation could improve thigh strength during cycling and improve recovery among triathletes. The company’s pilot study used a high dose omega-3 supplement of four grams per day.

GOED, a non-profit industry organisation that aims to increase global omega-3 intakes, says 250 mg should be seen as a minimum, rather than an optimum, level of consumption and says there could be additional benefits associated with high dose supplementation.

Other studies have suggested that omega-3s could help reduce muscle pain after exercise, and counterbalance exercise-induced inflammation made worse by the high levels of omega-6 fatty acids common in western dietary patterns. Supplier DSM, which provides both fish-derived and algae-derived omega-3s, has also cited animal studies that suggest omega-3s might help recovery after sports-related traumatic brain injuries.

Whether this promise translates into market opportunities for food, drink and supplement makers largely depends on whether further research backs such findings. For now, many sports nutrition products make no claims about the specific sports-related functions of omega-3 in their products, perhaps mentioning more general heart health benefits. Others simply highlight omega-3 on pack, and allow consumers to draw their own conclusions.

Related categories

Related tags

Blogs Functional Foods

Related news

Is the buzz around insect protein justified?

Is the buzz around insect protein justified?

16 Jul 2018

Insects have been hyped as a potential alternative protein source – but do they really have the potential to enter the mainstream?

Read more 
Could nature-identical ingredients damage the natural sweeteners market?

Could nature-identical ingredients damage the natural sweeteners market?

4 Jul 2018

Natural sweeteners are a major target for companies looking to make nature-identical food ingredients, but if they are produced in a lab rather than extracted from a plant, will consumers accept them as natural?

Read more 
How does honey compare to sugar?

How does honey compare to sugar?

27 Jun 2018

Sugar use is down and honey use is up as manufacturers look for natural sweetening alternatives – but does honey live up to the hype?

Read more 
Fruit and vegetable powders add clean label nutrition, colour and flavour

Fruit and vegetable powders add clean label nutrition, colour and flavour

25 Jun 2018

Fruit and vegetable powders are appearing in a range of foods and drinks to improve their flavour, colour, nutrition and texture, driven by the trend toward whole foods and consumer desire to boost fruit and vegetable consumption.

Read more 
What are the smartest botanical ingredients for brain health?

What are the smartest botanical ingredients for brain health?

20 Jun 2018

As the population ages, botanical ingredients to maintain and improve cognitive health are on the rise. What are they, and what evidence is there to support their claims?

Read more 
Turning a spotlight on healthy fats and oils

Turning a spotlight on healthy fats and oils

19 Jun 2018

European food manufacturers have been turning to healthier oils and fats – but there is often a trade-off to be made, balancing their benefits in terms of flavour and health with how easy they are to work with.

Read more 
Beyond ingredients: Food processing as a tool for cleaner labels

Beyond ingredients: Food processing as a tool for cleaner labels

12 Jun 2018

Ingredients come first when companies think about developing clean label foods and drinks, but certain processing technologies also should be considered part of the clean label toolbox.

Read more 
Plant-based eating boosts European walnut demand

Plant-based eating boosts European walnut demand

12 Jun 2018

The current trend toward plant-based diets and wholesome, natural ingredients has led to increased European demand for walnuts, as consumers have become more aware of their health benefits.

Read more 
Europeans embrace a new wave of seaweed ingredients

Europeans embrace a new wave of seaweed ingredients

6 Jun 2018

Seaweed ingredients are on the rise, set to appear in a wide range of new products in Europe in the coming years – far beyond the traditional sushi and miso soup.

Read more 
How clean label ingredients affect packaging

How clean label ingredients affect packaging

28 May 2018

When companies consider ‘cleaning up’ their product labels, they often focus primarily on how to remove or replace certain ingredients – but they should also consider implications for product packaging.

Read more