Natural Foods Merchandiser

Omega-3 sustainability article draws fire

Are omega-3 supplements from fish sustainable? No, said researchers in the Canadian Medical Association Journal last week. But their conclusion is based on misinformation on two levels, said fish-oil industry members and other researchers.

"Until renewable sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids—derived from plant, algae, yeast or other unicellular organisms—become more generally available, it would seem responsible to refrain from advocating to people in developed countries that they increase their intake of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids through fish consumption," wrote the CMAJ authors, led by David Jenkins, M.D., DSc.

The Canadian researchers pointed to declining fish stalks and added, "Evidence for the comprehensive benefits of increased fish oil consumption is not as clear-cut as protagonists suggest."

But Adam Ismail, executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, said not only was there a misrecognition of the scientific support for fish-based omega-3s but the authors referred to seafood consumption and fish oil interchangeably. "It implies that fish oils are the prime cause of overfishing in the world," Ismail said. "But that's simply not true."

GOED's response to the journal article asserts that more than 80 percent of fish oil used in human consumption comes from heavily‐regulated and sustainable anchovy, sardine and mackerel fisheries in Peru, Chile and Morocco. These fisheries closely follow best‐practice guidelines for sustainable fisheries management developed by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations so that there is no long‐term depletion of their stocks, according to GOED.

Commenting on the journal's website, Bruce Holub of the Department of Nutritional Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario pointed out the researchers failed to refer to major studies indicating benefits of fish oils, "and, perhaps more importantly, they did not refer to numerous advisories from medical and public health groups and committees from around the world who, after thoroughly and objectively evaluating the vast medical and scientific literature, have published specific dietary recommendations on fish consumption and DHA/EPA omega-3 intakes."

Also, listed under David Jenkins' competing interests were the Canola and Flax Councils of Canada.

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