Could chia oil help make margarine healthier?

By Tim Cutcliffe

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/Anjela Gr
© iStock/Anjela Gr

Related tags Nutrition

Fortifying margarine with chia oil dramatically improves omega-3 content and boosts antioxidant properties, without harming flavour or texture.

Researchers led by Dr Muhammad Nadeem, from the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Pakistan, found supplementing chia oil improved omega-3 levels and antioxidant characteristics.

Nadeem previously published work suggesting the addition of chia oil could enhance omega-3 and antioxidant characteristics of ice cream. The study, reported by NutraIngredients​, together with the latest work, show a growing interest in chia oil for improving  fat profiles in finished foods.

These results suggest that chia oil can be used for formulation of margarine with increased level of omega-3 fatty acids and acceptable sensory characteristics,​” the team wrote in the journal Lipidsin Health and Disease​.

Chia oil yields around 35-40% of good quality edible oil and has the highest omega-3 fatty acids of all the available food sources. Therefore, it is regarded as powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids,​” they added.
Margarines – preserving stability

Many attempts have been made to improve the nutritional content of margarine with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). However as PUFAs are prone to auto-oxidation, a key challenge has been the maintaining product stability which prevents development of rancid flavours, odours and toxic oxidation products. Results from this study appear promising in achieving this aim.

Supplemented margarines revealed low degree of changes in fatty acid profile, yielded the lower concentration of primary and secondary oxidation products,​” the team added. 

The team tested four different blends of non-hydrogenated fats containing 5, 10, 15 and 20% chia oil, along with a partially hydrogenated control product typical of those sold on the Pakistan market.  The control contained around 19% of trans-fatty acids, widely acknowledged as harmful to cardiovascular health.

The addition of chia oil to a base margarine blend of palm oil, palm kernel oil and butter significantly increased the level of omega-3 content, including DHA. Chia oil also improved the antioxidant content and stability of the product.

Storing the products for 90 days at 5°C did not affect taste, flavour or colour in supplemented blends containing up to 15% chia oil.

Sensory characteristics of margarine supplemented with 15% chia oil were not different from the control,​” the researchers said.

However, the 20% blend suffered deterioration to sensory properties when compared with other blends and control product.

The typical partially hydrogenated margarines on the Pakistan market contain around 19% trans-fats and lack any omega-3 fatty acids.  By contrast, the chia oil fortified margarine offers a much healthier nutritional profile with its high omega-3, phenolic content, absence of trans fats, combined with its enhanced antioxidant properties. Its comparable sensory properties and shelf life may make chia fortified products a healthy alternative for consumers.

In Europe, Vitaquell produce a high omega-3 margarine containing DHA from sea algae oil and α-linolenic acid from linseed and rapeseed oils. Unilever include plant sterols in Flora ProActiv to lower cholesterol.  EFSA also recognise as an Article 14 health claim that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils can reduce cholesterol.

Source: Lipids in Health and Disease
DOI: 10.1186/s12944-017-0490-x
"Omega-3 fatty acids, phenolic compounds and antioxidant characteristics of chia oil supplemented margarine"
Authors: Muhammad Nadeem, Muhammad Imran, et al

Related topics Research

Related news

Follow us


View more


Nutra Champions Podcast

Nutra Champions Podcast