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Strategies to improve bioavailability of omega-3 fatty acids from ethyl ester concentrates

Maki, Kevin C.; Dicklin, Mary R.

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care: March 2019 - Volume 22 - Issue 2 - p 116–123
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000537
LIPID METABOLISM AND THERAPY: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review To describe recent strategies that have been developed to enhance absorption of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from dietary supplements.

Recent findings The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA have important physiologic functions, and numerous potential health benefits have been suggested by results from observational studies and randomized, controlled trials. EPA and DHA intakes in the average American diet are substantially below recommended levels. Dietary supplements are available for consumers wishing to increase their intakes, but many of these are in ethyl ester formulations from which EPA and DHA are poorly absorbed when consumed without a meal containing dietary fat. Technologies have been developed to enhance EPA and DHA absorption through in-situ emulsification, which facilitates bioavailability, even in the absence of a fat-containing meal. Findings from randomized controlled trials of absorption enhancers incorporated into omega-3 fatty acid supplements demonstrate that they can markedly improve the bioavailability of EPA and DHA.

Summary The development of absorption enhancement technology to increase bioavailability of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids has important implications for studies on the health effects of dietary supplement and pharmaceutical products containing EPA and/or DHA.

Midwest Biomedical Research, Center for Metabolic & Cardiovascular Health, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, USA

Correspondence to Kevin C. Maki, PhD, Midwest Biomedical Research, Center for Metabolic & Cardiovascular Health, 489 Taft Avenue, Suite 202, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137, USA. Tel: +1 630 469 6600; fax: +1 773 980 7151; e-mail:

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