Omega-3 Odyssey

Are the health claims for these compounds warranted and, if so, can their measurement be streamlined?

By Giuseppe Astarita, Principal Scientist, Metabolomics & Lipidomics at Waters Corporation, Millford, MA, USA.

You have probably noticed during a regular visit to your local grocery store that many common food products, such as bread, cereal, milk, and eggs, are ‘rich in omega-3s’. And perhaps you have a friend who is taking omega-3 supplements?

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), a class of lipids characterized by a carboxylic group, an aliphatic chain, and multiple double bonds. They are named according to the position of the first double bond in the carbon chain, starting from the terminal carbon atom of the molecule (called the ‘omega carbon’ because omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet). The other type of PUFAs are omega-6s.