Spectral profiles of commercial omega-3 supplements: an exploratory analysis by ATR-FTIR and 1H NMR

  • Thiago I. B. Lopes
  • Elba S. Pereira
  • Deisy dos S. Freitas
  • Samuel L. Oliveira
  • Glaucia B. AlcantaraEmail author
Original Article


Most of the population is dependent on supplemental products to reach the recommended level of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (ω-3 PUFA) intake. Thus, knowledge about the quality of ω-3 supplements is important for their safe consumption. In this work, attenuated total reflectance–Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy were applied to assess the quality of fourteen commercial ω-3 supplements. Using ATR-FTIR data, we could identify whether ω-3 PUFA was esterified as either triacylglyceride (71%) or ethyl (29%) esters in ω-3 supplements. The type of esterification is rarely included in the product labels, although the consumer should have the right to choose which form of the supplement to consume. On the other hand, 1H NMR spectra were useful to determine the relative concentration of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids, and ω-3 PUFA in these commercial samples. Ethyl esters have higher concentrations of unsaturated fatty acids. The NMR results showed a good agreement between the obtained and declared DHA and EPA amounts on the product labels, except for one sample whose high level of ω-3 PUFA indicated it to be a vegetable oil-enriched supplement. Moreover, ω-3 supplements from Schizochytrium sp. microalgae oil revealed higher levels of DHA and ω-3 PUFA, but lower levels of EPA than fish oil. These findings indicate the need for a constant assessment of the quality of commercial products whose ATR-FTIR spectra could be routinely used for the evaluation of PUFA esterification, and NMR analysis could be used to provide advanced quantitative information on commercial ω-3 supplements.


Fish oil Microalgae oil Omega-3 PCA 



Attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy


docosahexaenoic acid


eicosapentaenoic acid


ethyl esters


fatty acid


gas chromatography


nuclear magnetic resonance




polyunsaturated fatty acid


principal component analysis


principal components


standard normal variate





The authors thank Alessandra Ramos Lima and Juliete Rocha de Lima for training and following-up during the acquisition of ATR-FTIR spectra. The authors thank the “Laboratório de Sistemas Embarcados” of the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, for the availability of the computer lab and software to perform the chemometric analysis. The authors also thank the Fundação de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento do Ensino, Ciência e Tecnologia do Estado de Mato Grosso do Sul - FUNDECT (grant numbers TO 0165/12 and 59/300.490/2016) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico - CNPq (Grant Numbers 481507/2013, 309636/2017-5, and 304600/2014-8).

Supplementary material

13197_2019_4157_MOESM1_ESM.docx (291 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 290 kb)


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Copyright information

© Association of Food Scientists & Technologists (India) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de QuímicaUniversidade Federal de Mato Grosso do SulCampo GrandeBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto Federal de EducaçãoCiênciae Tecnologia de Mato Grosso do SulAquidauanaBrazil
  3. 3.Instituto de FísicaUniversidade Federal de Mato Grosso do SulCampo GrandeBrazil

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