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Nutrient Bioavailability

Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Food Science Dept.
Project Description: 

The profile of dietary lipids in humans has changed dramatically as agricultural practices have advanced. This change has resulted in major changes in the consumption of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Our ancestors ingested concentrations of these two classes of fatty acids in a 7:1 ratio (comparing dietary omega-6 to omega-3). In Western cultures, the ratio in currently 25:1. This change in dietary lipids is problematic since humans are not able to interconvert (convert from one to the other) omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can have a major beneficial impact on health because they have numerous physiological roles such as impacting cell membrane fluidity, cellular signaling, gene expression and eicosanoid metabolism. Thus the alterations in dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake that has occurred over the past century could have major implications for numerous health problems including cardiovascular disease, diseases affected by immune response disorders (e.g. type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases and rheumatoid arthritis), mental disorders and infant development. Increasing the availability of omega-3 fatty acids in the human diet could have major benefits to health. This research will focus on utilizing emulsion technologies to allow omega-3 fatty acid incorporation into foods and to increase the bioavailability of these important dietary fats.