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Sourcing sustainable fish oil


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By guest blogger Warren Maginn, Clinical Nutritionist and Nordic Naturals spokesperson.

Many people are interested in omega-3 fish oil as a nutritional supplement due to the benefits for a variety of health concerns. With thousands of scientific studies to support its many benefits, it’s no wonder. When it comes to fish oil, however, there is much at stake. In addition to the health of the consumers who take fish oil supplements, the health of the environment is also to be considered.

Sourcing the raw materials that are utilised within fish oils can be a damaging process for the seafloor and to the sea creatures living there. If the sourcing is not done in an environmentally friendly manner, it can affect the equilibrium of the ocean environment, which could lead to the extinction of some species.

Choosing sustainably sourced fish oil that has been harvested and manufactured using eco-friendly techniques is an important consideration.

Sustainable fish oil that offers the highest level of benefit to both people and the planet should encompass the facets below:

Quality raw materials
Some companies are able to source wild Arctic cod (Skrei) from the Norwegian Sea. The Arctic cod has been shown to contain not only omega-3s, but also naturally occurring vitamin A and vitamin D and is therefore used to produce the highest quality fish oils.

Building relationships with independent fishermen
The use of smaller boats and independent fisherman, rather than large trawling vessels, is important for maintaining the sustainability of supply. Larger vessels spend longer at sea, and their hauls are less likely to achieve sustainable fishing practices or maintain the highest quality raw material. Therefore, the companies that build and maintain working relationships with these independent fishermen and smaller boats are the most successful in maintaining both the sustainability and quality of the raw fish stocks used in their fish oil.

Shortest transportation time
The less time between when the fish are caught and when they are delivered to the processing facilities, the greater the raw materials’ freshness. Therefore, immediate handling is essential and requires that the processing facilities are located close to the harbour, if not on the harbour itself.

Manufacturing and bottling to preserve freshness
It is important that fish oil bottling facilities use nitrogen to minimise exposure to oxygen at every stage of processing, beginning immediately after catch. The importance of this cannot be overstated: only by using nitrogen can the fish and oil be protected from the oxidative rancidity that leads to an unpalatable fishy smell and taste, as well as increased free radical generation in the body.

It is important that any fish oil product is free of harmful environmental toxins. This begins in the oceans, with the sourcing of fish from clean waters and healthy fisheries. It’s also important to choose fish that are naturally low in toxins. Still, all fish must be purified when used for fish oil products. There are several organisations that have set standards for fish oil purity. These include the Council for Responsible Nutrition, European Pharmacopeia Standard, and the Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3. These standards guarantee purity and safety for consumers and are followed by leading manufacturers.

Oil in the triglyceride form
To ensure the optimum effectiveness of supplemental fish oil, it is important that the oil is in its triglyceride form. This means that it can be absorbed better than fatty acids bound to ethanol, which some supplement companies do in order to concentrate the oils. It is important to maintain the natural structure of the essential fatty acid molecule, as it was within the fish, in order to ensure superior absorption, utilisation and therefore results.

Third-party testing
Third-party testing is vital to ensure objective proof of the quality of any fish oil. Every batch of fish oil must be tested to verify purity and freshness levels.

By following these stringent fishing and processing practices, an eco-friendly and effective fish oil that supports the optimum health of ourselves and our planet can be achieved.

Here at Green Lifestyle, there are a few eco-labelled omega-3 supplements that we can recommend to our readers:

- Nordic Naturals (the author of the above story is an advocate for this brand) which has a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified processing facility in Norway. To learn about the scientific research, see www.omega-research.com.

- Melrose high strength fish oil oral liquid, made from sustainably harvested wild fish species, and where every bottle sold yields a donation to support Australian research into arthritis.

- Blackmores Eco-krill oil, certified by MSC and endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund, although some environmentalists have raised concern over the harvesting of a key Antarctic ecosystem species such as krill.

- Swisse also does a Plant omega-3 supplement derived from microalgae that is completely vegetarian.