BUSTED: DHA-ADDED FOOD | Originally broadcast Mar. 27, 2009 on CBC-TV
Brain food or slick marketing?
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remember when the grocery aisle used to be filled with labels that promoted their "new" or "improved" status?

Selling food by the way it tastes is so yesterday — today it's all about the science.

Whether they’re touting brain health or heart health, food companies are marketing their products with Omega 3s, giving consumers the impression their products are healthier for them.

But are these products really offering a bang for our buck?

Wendy Mesley sweeps the supermarket and reveals the surprising answer.

Arrow DHA-added products vs. salmon

Arrow Related links about DHA
Posted on March 27, 2009 CommentBookmark, Email & Share
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I watched with interest the episode that busted the food manufacturers who produce DHA (Omega 3) enhanced foods, particularly aimed at children. Then I compared these so called enhanced products to the Udo's Oil Blend we have been using for numerous years. In 2 Tablespoons of this oil there are 13 grams of Omega 3. Our younger children get about 10 grams per week which is much easier than going the fish route and the kids love the oil.

I would apprecaiate your advice on Direct Buy...
I got fooled into getting their membership of appx 5000.00.
I have made an initial payment of 1700.00 dollars but DO NOT WANT TO PAY ANY FURTHER.

Please help how, can I get out of this deal????

thanks,
Naeem

B. Head writes, "You are a marketers dream." Well, perhaps, B. Head is a sensational storyline writer's dream! BBC News reported January 2006 on the benefits of Omega-3 and refer to studies that back this up with data. The article titled, "Oily fish makes 'babies brainier' can be found at news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4631006.stm I prefer to believe scientific articles over sensational "soundbyte" news like this CBC piece. The article also suggest some foods that contain natural Omega-3, like flax, pumpkin and hemp seeds; sardines, salmon and trout.

What about young childen who a fish aren't having fish due to concerns over allergies or because their families are vegetarians? Where do they get their DHA? There are products out there that contain added DHA from vegetarian sources. What are they supposed to do?

I'm very surprised at Marketplace and disappointed that your segment was so one sided. You have done a disservice to these children.

Thank you for increasing public awareness of the need for essential omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. A recent study from the University of Guelph reported that 78% of Canadian children are deficient in omega-3s. Many people do not eat fish - a fact that was evident in the faces of the children in your video. Professional Home Economists can help. Check out Fishing for Omega-3 Fatty Acids,a recent media release by Astrid Strader, P.H.Ec which includes a delicious recipe for Trout Tikka at www.ohea.on.ca - under News. A great recipe can often change your mind and enhance your list of family favourites.

I have to admit that I was suckered by all the products profiled in your story. As a mother of a 5 year old, I always reached for the DHA enhanced foods. I now have a newborn and I am wondering if the DHA hype also affects baby formula? I am curious to see if you will be exploring this angle if you do an update on this story.

Interesting, but as usual the "marketing" of Busted is as bad as what the show claims to try to unmask. There is no standard for how much DHA a child should have but the Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine, the Grade 1 kids in this class should get 90mg. So if Wonder has 15mg per 2 slices, the real number of "required" slices is 12 or 5% of the claimed number. Danino requires just over 2 (not 40) and Smart Growth requires only 4.5 (not over 100). What your program fails to ask is whether or not the kids need as much DHA as is in the salmon to get a benefit - its essentially an irrelevant comparison and as a result is weak journalism.

What a story. It is funny that Wendy did not even take the chance to learn about the different sources of Omega 3, ALA vs EPA and DHA

She continues to reference the 1600mg of Omega 3 by the Institute of Medicine but failed to realize this is 1600 mg of ALA. There is no RDI for EPA and DHA in Canada and the conversion of 1600mg of ALA to DHA is 16 mg. Wendy and Health Canada both don't distinguish between the plant (ALA) sources and the marine ( EPA/DHA ) sources which has lead Canadians into not understanding the differen. The flax lobby has been paying a lot of money to Health Canada to keep the Omega 3 claim alive for ALA, but good luck getting any noticable benefit from ALA or flax from an Omega 3 POV.

One person in the list of comments I just read, quotes what actually needed to be addressed in this piece. The actual required amounts of fatty acids in one's diet, as compared to what the DHA marketed products contain. If they provide enough, then there is not so much to criticize. Asking children if they feel smarter is hardly the research that needed to be done here. Why not provide the information needed to make an informed choice when purchasing these products rather than a biased report that doesn't ask or answer or all the relevant questions on the issue. I'm not a dietician or nutritionist but know enough to ask, can the body even metabolize the high amounts of fatty acids in a piece of fish all at once? And what about the other issues like heavy metal contamination and antibiotics in farmed fish? Do the benefits outweigh the risks Sorry this time you're busted, Wendy.

Thank you Dr Ken Stark for posting study results that show that a moderate diet using the DHA enriched foods is helpful. It showed that the journalism by CBC was totally misinformed in that it insinuated that we would need the same amount as found in 2 servings of salmon per day to see any help.

I love the fact that we have the CBC and am a fervent supporter of the arts in Canada...but I often wonder when regarding this type of malicious one sided journalism whether we'd be better off spending our tax dollars somewhere else.

To the CBC, the taxpayers of Canada are your employers, perhaps start treating us like we have some intelligence. Many of us aren't buying into your false "investigative journalism"

I just watched your program on DHA and products containing DHA and was not impressed. You failed to explain how combining those items over a period of time would be comparable. For example if two pieces of fish over a week would be compared to eating 50 pieces of bread plus 30 glasses of milk plus 10 yogurts plus vitamin pills plus a couple of other items then you would have a case. Unfortunately you failed, big time. Instead you have set the stage for people to not buy those items but buy the cheapest and perhaps not the most healthy ones. Your comparison of one sitting eating was very poor at best.
Why dont you go back and redo the story including what those kids would eat over a week versus two pieces of fish in one meal.

Great program and I find it interesting that we are told to consumer more fish in our diet due to the value of EPA and DHA and the importance to our health and well being yet the fish we consume is not tested for heavy metals and PCB and othe toxins so others tell us not to eat too many servings. Are supplements the only way to go at least they are tested for heavy metals and toxins and are safe. it is clear that the food people can not get enough of the important EPA and DHA in a product to make that worthwhile.

Good program but only part truth. I guess you can only get so much in a short clip like this. It would be nice to see the whole story.

J. Barton writes "There are a large variety of different products containing DHA, so it is not necessary to consume mass quantities of one type of food."

You are a marketer's dream. Think about the match. Even if you eat multiple servings of DHA-enhanced milk, eggs, bread, etc. you are still only getting marginal levels of DHA in aggregate, far less than you would get from eating primary sources like fish. If you don't want to eat fish because of health concerns, then take fish oil capsules instead; buying fish oil capsules is much cheaper than buying premium products that do nothing. Another good source of omega-3s is canola oil.

Thank you for clearing up this clever marketing ploy. I was always curious about the actual nutritional value of such products. As a mother of two I am always trying to make healthy choices without breaking our budget. As I used to work in a grocery store I was always suspicious of such pricey products. Thank you for busting these ones.

In October 2008, we examined foods available to Canadians that contained the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Substituting fish into a typical Canadian daily diet increased EPA+DHA intake to 3230 mg/day at an additional cost of 82 cents/day. Replacing regular foods with EPA+DHA enriched food products increased EPA+DHA to 590 mg/day for an additional 93 cents/day. The full study can be found at www.jacn.org/cgi/content/abstract/27/5/538. To put this in perspective, the Dietitians of Canada have recommended 500mg of EPA+DHA/day. The average Canadian intake of EPA+DHA is 93 mg/day in children, 117 mg/day in pregnant women and 121 mg/day in the elderly. These new EPA+DHA enriched food products can help Canadians meet these dietary recommendations at a cost that is less than a cup of coffee at our favourite doughnut store.

I have never seen commercials claiming that DHA makes anyone smarter, however I have seen these products advertised as helping to lower blood cholesterol levels, something that was not mentioned once in this episode. It is not only ludicrous to suggest that someone would have to eat over 200 slices of bread or nearly two dozen eggs to attain enough DHA, but it is also detrimental. There are a large variety of different products containing DHA, so it is not necessary to consume mass quantities of one type of food. Telling people not to buy products containing DHA is like telling people not buy products containing vitamins because each product does not have a full daily allowance! I'll take a healthy variety of DHA containing foods over fish that has been either farmed or caught in contaminated water any day!

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