While there is a long history of investigation of the health benefits of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), there is nearly as much of a history of questioning whether the research truly substantiates those impacts.
A new tool to help industry and others understand the full body of evidence supporting the benefits of EPA and DHA omega-3s was launched recently by GOED, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s. The GOED Clinical Study Database (CSD), which has been many years in the making, curates the more than 40,000 published papers on omega-3s and includes a comprehensive, searchable interface detailing all human interventional studies according to demographics, dosage, study design, etc. The CSD works like a sophisticated PubMed but unlike PubMed, it also includes data on every outcome in each study, not just what’s covered in the Abstract.
The scope and possibilities of this tool are extensive, and could include:
- Responding to and commenting on media articles
- Preparing white papers and opinion articles
- Performing systematic reviews and meta-analyses
- Identifying gaps in research
- Substantiating health and structure/function claims
- Providing direction in product development and marketing
Why GOED created the CSD
One of the original reasons for creating this database was due to the frustration over misleading and negative consumer media articles about EPA and DHA. To provide supporting evidence to rebut the inaccuracies in these articles took days—much too long for the current super-fast news cycle. With the database we can now show the totality of the evidence with the click of a button.
Additionally, while there is a benefit to having 40,000+ scientific papers on EPA and DHA, this vast amount of research also makes understanding the science a challenge. The CSD filled a need to understand the body of evidence around a particular outcome, for a particular population, or at a specific dosage level.
Companies can use the database to understand the specific attributes of various populations studied to make a more specific recommendation for dose or type of omega-3. For example, there may be 70 human interventional studies on people with dementia. Using the dosage filter, the database would show that 10 studies reported a dose of 500-1,000 mg EPA+DHA, and 20 studies reported a dose of 1,000 mg EPA+DHA or greater. Comparing the various clinical markers in these studies, the user might find dose-dependent differences in symptoms of dementia.
Another feature of the database allows the review of other interventional components. There are many factors influencing health, including genetics, age, diet, exercise habits, etc. What if there is an additive effect for health outcomes when EPA and DHA supplementation is paired with another supplement such as vitamin D, or a lifestyle intervention like yoga or sudoku puzzles? The possibilities for discovery are endless!
As a more tangible example, GOED has been working on a project utilizing the CSD to look at EPA and DHA omega-3 and their impact on cognitive health. This research is being lead Dr. Mélanie Plourde at Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada. During Vitafoods Europe, a presentation on 10 May will showcase how the CSD was utilized to generate the data for a systematic review, plus highlight the ways the CSD can visualize scientific data.
This is the first database of its kind. Certainly, industry and researchers have an opportunity to jump in and use this tool as the research on omega-3s continues to evolve and develop. But other industries might also be able to use the novel structure and unique framework of the database for their own ingredient or nutrient of interest. For example, a database focused on calcium (or turmeric, or probiotics, etc.) may help uncover and substantiate recommendations for intake, or benefits for certain population groups with adequate or increased consumption.
Kaitlin Roke, PhD is the director of scientific communication and outreach at GOED, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s.