US researchers claim they have proved it possible to incorporate omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish oil into milk and dairy-based beverages in sufficient amounts to promote health without destroying taste or smell.
Researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University – commonly known as Virginia Tech – conducted tests on four different ratios of butter oil to fish oil in the production of pasteurised, fatty acid-fortified beverages
The aroma-free formulation was also made the subject of a “sniff test.”
Twenty-five volunteers evaluated one ounce cups of standard 2% fat milk alongside samples of the aroma-free skimmed milk formulation, which contained a ratio of 78 parts butter oil to 22 parts fish oil.
The aroma-free formulation was also found to deliver 432 milligrams (mg) of heart-healthy fatty acids.
Fish oils are high in fatty acids such as omega-3, which can help to prevent coronary disease, reduce inflammation, assist infant brain development, and maintain brain function. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends daily consumption of 250mg per day in healthy adults.
According to Susan E. Duncan, a professor of food science and technology at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the volunteers did not notice the difference.
“We couldn’t find any aroma differences,” said Duncan.
Duncan added that the results of the study, which featured in the Journal of Dairy Science, show that it is possible to enriched milk with fish oils without risk of affecting the smell or shelf life of the finished product.
“We were concerned the fish oil would undergo a chemical process called oxidation, which would shorten the milk’s shelf life, or the milk would acquire a cardboard or paint flavour by reacting with the fish oil. It appears we have a product that is stable, with no chemical taste or smell issues,” she said.
“I think the dairy industry can look at our study and determine whether it is plausible to modify its products.”