Geneticists in the US are claiming that genetic material found in a microscopic worm could make pork into a heart-healthy food with the same properties as oily fish.

The scientists have mixed genetic material from the roundworm C. elegans with pigs to produce pork containing significant levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Having seen enhanced omega-3 levels in six cloned piglets, they believe they will now be able to apply the process to both poultry and cows.

The process does not reduce the fat content as such in these pigs but simply increases the levels of beneficial fatty acids, which are known to be important for brain development and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Attempts to reduce fat content in meat through genetic manipulation have so far been unsuccessful because of taste problems, but companies are now successfully marketing eggs with increased omega-3 levels, achieved by feeding chickens large amounts of flax or fish meal.