'Omega-3' are constantly in the news, but many people still don't know why these fats are so important in our diets.
There are also different kinds of omega-3, but scientific evidence has shown that only the long-chain forms found in fish and seafood (known as EPA and DHA) are likely to provide the health benefits widely attributed to 'omega-3'. (See Brenna et al 2009)
Many foods and supplements boasting 'omega-3' contain only the shorter-chain version (ALA) from vegetable oils.
So are consumers being 'ripped off'?
This episode of the Food Programme does an excellent job of clarifying some of the confusion about omega-3 and other types of dietary fats - and also highlights the fact that new European legislation proposals are likely to make matters worse, not better.
According to scientists, we need to dramatically increase our intake of omega 3 fatty acids and reduce our intake of omega 6 fatty acids to achieve a healthy balance. It is a controversial debate with all sorts of vested interests at stake.
As manufacturers add omega 3 to a whole host of products, consumers can be left confused in the face of claim and counter claim. What can they believe? What is in the products we buy anyway, and how much does it matter?
Sheila Dillon explores the issues.