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img opperman benadeThe FFRU is studying the metabolic and nutritional effects of functional foods or premixes with functional food characteristics in human volunteers participating in well-designed clinical trials. Special areas of interest include essential fatty acid (omega-3’s) and micronutrient metabolism. The FFRU is actively involved in a number of research projects.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which means they cannot be formed in the human body. Humans need to obtain them from their diet in order to maintain good health. The required daily intake is unknown.

The FFRU conducted a series of clinical trials to develop a model to determine the daily need of omega-3 fatty acids in humans. The model was successfully developed and implemented, and created a platform for clinical investigations on the effect of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on degenerative diseases. Applications of the model included exploring the lowest daily dosage of fish oil to obtain optimum blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and to study the metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids in diabetic versus non-diabetic individuals.

The unit is also conducting surveys on fish oil supplements available in the South African market to monitor the quality of the supplements offered to consumers. The first survey was conducted in 2009 while a follow-up survey was carried out during 2012. Results of the 2009 survey were published in the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa while the follow-up survey’s results were published in the same journal during 2013.

Opperman M, Marais de W, Spinnler Benade AJ. Analysis of omega-3 fatty acid content of South African fish oil supplements. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2011 Nov-Dec;22(6):324-9.

Opperman M, Benade S. Analysis of the omega-3 fatty acid content of South African fish oil supplements: a follow-up study. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2013 Sep;24(8):297-302.


The unit is involved in micronutrient research ranging from functional food products and premix development to conducting clinical trials. A range of functional food products and premixes has been developed and is currently in the process of commercialisation.

A study, sponsored by the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry, will investigate the effect of one of the patented premixes (Nutri Caro-E) and inflammation among pre-school children.