It is probably not an exaggeration to say that more fish oil supplements are claimed to be sourced from salmon than any other species.
Why Is salmon’s omega3 richer in nutrients? Does it have fewer ocean toxins than others? Is this popularity causing overfishing? What other fish are there?
1] The reason consumers are researching salmon omega3 are two fatty acids from the omega3 family found in salmon and other cold water fish. They are called EPA and DHA. It is these two that get all the endorsements – the F.D.A., the A.H.A., the American Eye Institute, the Alzheimer’s Foundation and many other organizations around the world. The U.S. military is considering adding them to their issued rations. Omega3s have been shown to benefit four of the top five conditions for which troops receive hospital care. These would include: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, surgical issues and for female soldiers, pregnancy. It is also believed that they speed recovery from traumatic brain injury.
2] Why salmon, you ask? They are rich in omega 3s but so are mackerel, tuna, hoki and various other predatory species. All fish absorb ocean pollutants from the natural food chain and these can find their way into supplements. When people see Alaskan Salmon Omega3 on the bottle, they assume it is purer than some other product because there is less pollution off Alaska than the in Pacific Ocean. This is partly true. There is less pollution near Alaska than say San Francisco, California. However, it does not matter.
Salmon are anadromous. They spend all or part of their adult life in salt water and return to freshwater streams and rivers to spawn. These Alaskan species that I mentioned get around. Traveling thousands of miles in the ocean is normal during their adult lives. Then it is homeward bound to fresh water to reproduce.
Educated consumers, who are aware of this, know that any omega3 rich species from any area can have ocean toxins in them. Predatory fish have most of the omega3s and also most of the contaminants. It does not matter where a fish is born but where it spends most of its life eating. In other words, do not be fooled by an Alaskan salmon omega3 supplement that suggests it is pure because of the salmon source.
3] It has been estimated that around 70% of the species in the oceans are over fished. This has led to an increasing number of fish farms. Norway has over 800 of them but they are all over the world. However, there are issues. Crowded, and in some areas, unsanitary conditions are causes of numerous parasites and viruses. Administrators use pesticides and antibiotics to fight these problems but the fish absorb them and pass them on to us. Plus, because there is no natural food chain, many of these species have little omega 3 content in them.
4] Different experts put different numbers on how much seafood we should eat. The most generous estimate is twice a week. Others think that is too much – twice a month is what they have in mind. Whatever you choose, it is unlikely that you will get enough EPA and DHA from your diet.
How do we solve this?
It does not matter where the DHA and EPA originate. They are the same essential fatty acids with the same chemical structure. Salmon omega3 are just one option among many.