Confused about Omega 3s? Read on and ask questions of our food and nutrition expert.

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We at Passionfish are not nutrition scientists but we have heard from the medical establishment for years now that essential fatty acids (EFAs) can help stave off illness and disease.
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I have posed some questions to Christopher Speed. Please read his answers carefully and take heed– or ask more questions below in our comments section. Chris founded Minami Nutrition USA, where he launched a unique supercritical CO2 extracted omega-3 supplement. He has a Master of Human Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Sydney, continues his academic work as an Associate Editor of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention and is an adjunct Lecturer at New York University Nutrition School.
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Chris was the food and nutrition strategist for Oldways Preservation and Exchange, where he helped increase awareness of the healthfulness of a number of traditional eating patterns which ranged from Asian to Mediterranean diets.
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Christopher Speed


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Chris was the first Global Director of Food and Nutrition Sciences at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, where he provided counsel to many food brands, raw ingredient manufacturers and prepared food/quick service restaurants so that they may best navigate the ever-changing nutrition landscape.
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My questions to Chris and his answers are below. Also, to long-time P’fish supporters, you will remember Chris as he was a very engaging panelist at our first multi-stakeholder forum held in San Diego in 2003.
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QUESTION: Tell me about essential fatty acids (EFAs). What are these compounds, where are they found, and why are they considered essential?
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ANSWER: Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats required by all mammals deriving from food. Like vitamins, these are not produced within the body, and must come from the diet. There are omega-6 and omega-3 types of essential fatty acids that compete with each other when metabolized and produce hormones that affect nearly every cell and tissue in the body [1]. The amount eaten of these fats in our diet determines the proportions of them in our body.
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During human evolution there was always abundance in seafood and plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids with very little dietary contribution from omega-6 fatty acids. In modern times the opposite is true, with a higher contribution of energy coming from omega-6 than omega-3, because industrialized agriculture has produced foods that contain higher amounts of omega-6 fat (2-5) with fewer consumers opting for seafood and plant based omega-3’s. This essential fatty acid “imbalance” between omega 6 and omega-3’s is thought to underpin diverse chronic diseases and disorders [6-8].
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QUESTION: EFAs are found in plants and animals. Are there any known differences on human health when EFAs of different origin are added to one’s diet? Pros and cons of flax vs. fish oil, for example.
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ANSWER: Both plant and seafood based EFAs support health and wellness. Plant based omega-3 are called ALA (alpha linoleic acid), whereas seafood omega 3’s are called EPA (eicosapaentanoic acid) and DHA (docosapaentanoic acid). ALA is the essential fatty acid the body can’t make so you need it from food, and the body can then convert ALA to EPA to DHA or you can simply consume preformed EPA and DHA from whole seafood and supplemental sources (9,10).
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QUESTION: The amount of EFAs found in animals varies based on their diet. Is it uniformly true that grass-fed and wild animals have higher levels of omega-3’s than those that are grain-fed?
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ANSWER: Soybean/corn/grain fed animals are likely to have very different fatty acid proportions than do grass-fed animals. The general rule of thumb is that grass-fed meat will most probably have lower levels of omega-6 in their tissue. Chicken and other poultry contain the highest amounts of omega-6 as they tend to produce omega-6 in their own tissue regardless of what they are fed. (11)
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QUESTION: EFA fish oil supplements indicate that their source of omegas may come from cod liver, mixed fish, salmon, etc. Is there significance to the species of fish from which EFAs are extracted?
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ANSWER: Fish like mackerel, herring, anchovies, tuna and salmon are typically higher in the two important marine omega-3’s EPA and DHA than do most other fish. Pollock, krill, squid and algae are new to the omega-3 arena and offer interesting options for the consumer. (12-14)
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QUESTION: EFAs are concentrated and cleaned using various mechanical, molecular, and chemical mechanisms. What bearing does the method of processing and purification of EFAs have?
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ANSWER: The two most common methods of processing and purifying EFAs are via molecular distillation and supercritical CO2 extract. If the manufacturers follow Good Manufacturing Practices, then there is no difference in purity and quality of their oils. (12-15)
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QUESTION: EFA supplements can be found in triglyceride or ethyl ester form, packaged as a liquid, in capsules, and with enteric coatings. What differences in absorption exist between ingestion of these different molecular and physical forms?
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ANSWER: Throughout the fish oil industry, bold marketing statements are being made about the superiority of various marine sources used, such as salmon, cod or anchovy krill because they contain a specific form of omega-3 being used (such as an ethyl ester or triglyceride form). It doesn’t require that much research to conclude that the proof used to support many of these statements is pseudoscience. Very few of these organizations are supporting their aggressive marketing messages with published, clinically proven, peer reviewed research, that has had its methodology and findings critiqued by experts in the field (16). For this reason, independent experts conclude that:
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• at the current time, there is a lack of credible evidence which supports the assertion that the triglyceride form of omega-3 fish oil is, in any clinically significant way, more advantageous or beneficial than the ethyl ester form
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• marketing claims being made about the superiority of the triglyceride form are misleading (particularly as it relates to absorption, utilization, and stability)
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• measurements of absorption and bioavailability of omega-3’s only prevents us from focusing on the critical issue – their clinical outcome in regards to impact on health or health conditions.
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• both ethyl ester or triglyceride forms are both efficacious forms of omega-3 for the general population.
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QUESTION: Advice on when, how much, and at what age EFA supplements should be taken varies. Can you clarify recommended dosage rates, frequency, and whether consuming with food or water is important?
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ANSWER: In reality the best time to consume omega-3 supplements is when you can remember to do so daily and to make it a part of your routine. Omega-3 benefits don’t lie in when you take them, but whether you take them at all and continue to do so throughout your lifetime, because their positive effects take months to years to take full effect. A recent consensus concluded that most Americans need to consume 1,000mg of EPA and DHA per day. It was also agreed that in order to take away the full benefits from omega-3, consumers should be vigilant to lower their current omega-6 intake to optimize tissue levels of omega-3 and reduce the pro-inflammatory effect of omega-6. (17)
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QUESTION: The idea that there is a healthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs in the diet is debated among experts. What is the status of the science regarding EFA ratios and how do we find out our Omega blood balance?
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ANSWER: At the turn of the recent millennium industrialized agriculture has produced a single food source, soybean oil, that now delivers 20% of all calories in the typical US diet – contributing 9% of all calories from omega-6 fat, alone (2-5). As a result, this unintended omega-3 and omega-6 imbalance drives hormone effects on nearly every cell and tissue in the human body and influence many aspects of human physiology and pathology (18). Increasingly, science is determining that pro-inflammatory hormones produced from such a high amount of omega-6’s is not safe.
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One study has indicated that greater intakes of an omega-6 from 1960 to 1999 in five countries predicted a 100-fold greater risk of homicide mortality (19). “The increases in world omega-6 consumption over the past century may be considered a very large uncontrolled experiment that may have contributed to increased societal burdens of aggression, depression, and cardiovascular mortality” (19). The list of health problems related to omega-3 deficits with elevated omega-6 has grown to include atherosclerosis, thrombosis (20), arrhythmia, heart attacks, stroke, immune-inflammatory disorders, asthma, arthritis, cancer proliferation (21), obesity (22), psychiatric disorders, depression, suicide, homicide (23,24), oppositional behavior, unproductive workplace behaviors, length of stay in hospitals (25) and annual healthcare claim costs (26,27).
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It is now increasingly understood that actively lowering omega-6 intake must be carefully considered and that alternatives to soybean variants are sought. Additionally increasing omega-3’s among the population through greater seafood intake /supplement usage is important. The worldwide fisheries and aquaculture industries can help increase tissue concentrations of omega-3 on a population level to substantially decrease health care costs by reducing the illnesses that account for the largest burden of disease worldwide.
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QUESTION: The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that 62% of Americans own a pet. Are there health benefits or drawbacks to feeding EFA supplements to domestic dogs, cats, fish, birds, equine, reptiles, and small animals?
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ANSWER: Mammals in particular benefit from omega-3 supplementation. Other species have differing requirements for essential fatty acids and veterinarian support must be sought for each.
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QUESTION: The sustainability of wild fish stocks is a growing global concern. How can one rest assured that fish oil supplement production isn’t contributing to collapse of wild fisheries?
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ANSWER: One way is to become an informed consumer and to make each fish oil supplement manufacturer accountable to sustainability concerns. The Marine Stewardship Council provides an on-pack “trust mark” for companies that wish to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices. This is a great way to support the choices of people when they buy fish oil based supplements/seafood as you are assured that your brand is working with partners that transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis (28).
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Thank you, Chris!
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Well, P’fish fans, you can see that Chris has provided essential fatty acids for thought. Since he provided references, I am going to place them in the comments section below. After spending the past decade or so on the issue of ocean and seafood sustainability, which includes our own human health as an important consideration, this topic of omegas is of great interest to me and others.
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I am about to take a blood test that measures my ratio of omega 3s vs omega 6s. I will report back here on the results ASAP.
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Please pose questions in our comments section for Chris as I know that health and nutrition are among your top concerns.
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Patti

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SweetSpring Salmon: Freshwater Coho to the Rescue!

P’fish’ers, the future is here. Below is an interview with Per Heggelund, Founder and President of SweetSpring Salmon, Inc. The company produces freshwater coho (silver salmon) inland in spring water. It’s delicious, it’s mild, it’s nutritious — and it meets the highest sustainability criteria. In fact, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has listed it as “Super Green“, surpassing even its “best choice” seafood options.
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Above: Per Heggelund, Founder and President of SweetSpring Salmon. Photo by Theresa Vernetti.
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QUESTION: Many view salmon farming very negatively. What makes SweetSpring’s freshwater coho salmon sustainable?
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ANSWER: I view sustainability of our freshwater coho in the context of our long-term commitment to Pacific salmon and freshwater conservation. Our salmon conservation effort is focused on reducing harvest pressure on wild salmon stocks without disrupting their migratory paths and environment. The SweetSpring Salmon system is capable of achieving this goal because we operate land-based, self-contained freshwater facilities and we rely on a minimum of wild forage fish meat in feed.
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Similarly our freshwater conservation effort utilizes leading edge recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) and wastewater treatment to minimize water usage and waste discharge. Combined, this focus allows us to produce the best and safest alternative to Alaska wild salmon as recognized by Seafood Watch at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
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Our closed containment facilities recirculate the purest spring water, the quality of which we carefully and continuously monitor. We build our facilities and tanks far from native salmon runs and our coho cannot escape. The feed blend we’ve developed is one on which the strain of coho we’ve bred thrives. We achieve an exceptional food conversion ratio using fish meal from by-products and vegetable proteins. Also part of what we’re doing that’s unique is farming a saltwater species in freshwater. This is only possible because of years of attentive husbandry have enabled us to identify and cultivate a strain of Pacific coho salmon that thrives in the purest of our sweet-spring water.
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I think it’s worth noting that even the environmental activist organization Farmed & Dangerous has endorsed our practices and embraced the opinion of SeaChoice that “closed containment aquaculture is a solution scientists, conservationists, and citizens that want to keep wild salmon around have been asking for, for a really long time.”
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We are proud of the healthfulness of our fish and the environmental sustainability of our production. We attend to every detail, a difference you can taste.
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QUESTION: What does sustainable mean to you, in the context of fisheries?

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ANSWER: Fisheries management should strive to sustain the natural abundance of our aquatic environment and its renewable resources for future generations. This goal requires that we don’t overexploit our resources or damage their restorative underpinnings. Nature is resilient but not limitless. Human activities tend to exceed the carrying capacity of the very ecosystems that we depend on for our survival. So our negative impacts on all wildlife including fish and shellfish increase with increasing population.
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To strike a new balance in fisheries, consumers must endorse conservation by lessening their demand for wild stocks and focusing on restoring fish habitats. Freshwater coho raised in land-based facilities have the potential to help us do both.
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QUESTION: Why is freshwater grown SweetSpring coho “Super Green®”?

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ANSWER: SweetSpring coho are both good for the ocean and people. This two-part statement is reflected in our dual attainment of a “Best Choice” green rating awarded by the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Seafood Watch program and further distinguished as “Super Green®.” Being green means having:
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• Best management and regulatory practices
• High-quality, nutritious feed with low impact on marine resources
• No escapements affecting wild stocks
• No disease transfer to wild stocks
• No detrimental habitat impacts
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Being “super green” requires a focus on food safety and high health:
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• Low levels of contaminants (PCB and Hg)
• High levels of essential omega-3 fatty acids
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Of the six seafood categories that are rated by MBA as “Super Green®,” only two are salmon: SweetSpring coho and some wild-caught Alaska salmon.
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QUESTION: How significant is aquaculture to the seafood industry?
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ANSWER: Its importance is enormous and growing. Aquaculture production is the world’s fastest-growing source of animal protein. It currently provides more than half of all seafood consumed globally, according to the UNFAO (Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).
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Additionally, the United States faces a staggering seafood trade imbalance. Considering simply salmon, the U.S. imports annually almost $2 billion worth. Most of this is farmed in ocean net pens, but some is also Alaskan wild salmon that has been transported to China and Thailand for reprocessing and exported back to the USA.
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QUESTION: Where are SweetSpring coho raised?
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ANSWER: Presently our coho salmon are grown at three U.S.-based, state-of-the-art closed containment facilities: Our original location in southwest Washington, which taps the glacial-fed springs of Mount Rainier, and two other sites situated in north-western Montana under the watchful eye of Hutterite colonies. Others are planned across North America’s heartland and close to major metropolitan markets to minimize the environmental impacts of transportation.
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QUESTION: What do you mean when stating “complete traceability from egg to plate”?
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ANSWER: We take salmon husbandry seriously. We monitor every crop of SweetSpring coho, harvesting and processing them carefully. Each shipment is marked and traced to confirm it is properly handled en route and to ensure it arrives fresh to the consumer.
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QUESTION: How flavorful is SweetSpring salmon?
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ANSWER: SweetSpring freshwater coho (silver salmon) have a mild flavor and delicate texture. Andrew Spurgin, an award-winning chef in San Diego and nationally recognized caterer, recently put our salmon through its paces. He roasted it in salt, bincho charcoal grilled it, sautéed it, poached it in olive oil, and smoked it. It excelled on all accounts. Our farmed coho are simply wildly good!
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[note from Patti: Andrew is my Passionfish co-founder. We recently promoted SweetSpring's freshwater coho for our annual Poisson d'Avril event held in San Diego.]
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QUESTION: How healthful is SweetSpring salmon?
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ANSWER: SweetSpring freshwater coho possess high levels of essential omega-3 fatty acids and extremely low levels of contaminants such as mercury (Hg), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). SweetSpring coho are raised in pure spring water and fed a custom blend of vegetable proteins, fish by-products, fish meal and essential omega-3 fatty acids. This unique feed formulation lessens reliance on the practice of using wild forage fish in the form of fishmeal and fish oil. Our feed is free of genetically modified crops (i.e. non-genetically modified) and our coho are hormone-free.
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QUESTION: Who started the SweetSpring Salmon company?

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ANSWER: It started with AquaSeed Corporation that I founded in 1988. Last year my partners and I renamed it SweetSpring Salmon, Inc. to better match our focus on salmon and water conservation and the marketing of our Super Green coho. At SweetSpring I act as President. Our CEO is Dr. Phillip David. Phil brings a strong background in livestock genetics.
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My arrival here took a circuitous route beginning in the town of Andenes, on the remote island of Andøya, Norway. My family there dates back four generations in the seafood industry. My hometown, which is 186 miles (300 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle, has been an important fishing village since the Iron Age and was one of the largest fishing ports in Norway early in the 1900s. As a teenager, I had the opportunity to travel to New York State on a high school exchange program. I returned to the U.S. a few years later to attend the University of Washington. At the UW I earned both a master’s degree from the College of Environment, School of Fisheries’ Department of Food Science and later an MBA.
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Nearly three decades ago, I recognized that the US seafood consumer was demanding a year-around fresh supply of salmon that eventually would outstrip the limited seasonal availability that is supported by sustainable wild stocks. Thus began my pursuit of sustainable aquaculture focusing on Pacific salmon breeding combined with salmon and freshwater conservation.
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QUESTION: What is the history of SweetSpring Salmon, Incorporated?

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ANSWER: The origin of our company as AquaSeed started with a focus on Pacific salmon breeding, production and marketing of coho eyed eggs (salmon embryos) and Chinook captive broodstock. Shortly after I founded AquaSeed, we purchased Domsea coho pedigree stock from Campbell Soup Company’s Domsea Farms, Inc.
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Our Chinook program focused on conserving endangered Columbia River Spring Chinook. This program made us a national leader in private salmon conservation. AquaSeed maintained backup seed stock to assure the continued viability of unique Pacific salmon species that were struggling to survive under difficult circumstances. AquaSeed became the only private company to operate Safety Net (i.e. gene banking) programs for Pacific salmon listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and regulated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, U.S. Department of Commerce. Now as SweetSpring Salmon we are applying what we’ve learned on the job of responsibly raising Pacific salmon for human consumption. We are wild salmon conservationists as much as salmon growers.
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QUESTION: Where can I purchase SweetSpring Salmon freshwater coho?
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ANSWER: Until our production increases, SweetSpring salmon may seem more rare than hen’s teeth. If you have the chance to travel to Canada, our fish can be found in Overwaitea supermarkets throughout British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. In Seattle, Washington, Mashiko Sushi and La Spiga serve our salmon. And in California, it is carried by seafood wholesaler Royal Hawaiian Seafood and offered in fine restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, such as OneMarket and Fog Harbor.
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Thanks, Per!
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P’fish’ers, here’s a photo of a fillet of SweetSpring’s freshwater coho before I pan seared it last night:
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And here it is right before I scarfed it (it was absolutely DELICIOUS):
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