The consumption of seafood and the use of fish oil for omega-3 nutraceuticals and fish feed have increased over the past decades putting pressure on the sustainability of fisheries. One way to overcome the limited supply of fish oil is to harvest lower in the marine food web.
Calanus finmarchicus is a small copepod which feeds on phytoplankton and constitutes a considerable biomass in the North Atlantic and is a novel source of omega-3 fatty acids. The oil is, however, different from other commercial marine oils in terms of chemistry and, possibly, bioactivity since it contains wax esters.
Wax esters are fatty acids that are esterified with alcohols. In addition to the long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the oil is also rich in stearidonic acid (SDA), long-chain monounsaturated fatty acids, and the long-chain fatty alcohols eicosenol and docosenol. Recent animal studies have indicated anti-inflammatory and anti-obesogenic actions of this copepod oil beyond that provided by EPA and DHA.
The health effects of EPA and DHA are well recognised, whereas long-chain monounsaturated fatty acids and long-chain fatty alcohols have, to a large degree, been overlooked in relation to human health. Recently the fatty alcohols have received interest as potential targets for improved health via conversion to their corresponding fatty acids. Together, the different lipid components of the oil from C. finmarchicus may have potential as nutraceuticals for reducing obesity and obesity-related metabolic disorders.
Calanus As, based in Norway, develops functional health and nutrition ingredients for humans and animals exclusively from this raw material. The Company’s main product is Calanus Oil, an ecologically sustainable marine oil for humans a with a special chemistry that is claimed to give additional benefits.
In this oil, more than 85% of the lipids consist of wax esters, about 11% of the fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), of which cetoleic acid and gondoic acid are the most abundant followed by oleic acid. Approximately 19% of the fatty acids are PUFA of which 18% are omega-3 fatty acids. This novel marine oil is relatively low in EPA and DHA compared to other marine oils but is relatively rich in SDA.
The recent review, published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, discusses potential mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of the oil, focusing on the impact of the various components of the oil.
The report explains that stearidonic acid, monounsaturated fatty acids, policosanols and astaxanthin can contribute to the metabolic and inflammatory health in a favourable way, adding that the wax esters likely act as natural delayed release molecules, thereby facilitating transportation of fatty acids to the GPR120 receptors.
The fatty acids act as potent stimulators of the GPR120 receptor, which is associated with reduced inflammation, improved insulin sensitivity and enhanced glucose uptake. GPR120 is a target for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Head of Science in Calanus AS, Dr Alice Marie Pedersen, says: “This publication is the first comprehensive review that evaluates the different bioactive constituents of Calanus Oil. Even if there is still much to discover, there is already exisiting knowledge on for instance policosanols and monounsaturated fatty acids, which are associated with the Mediterranean diet.“
Dr. Pedersen concludes: "Stearidonic acid is also extremely interesting, and it is likely that this special fatty acid, as a part of the wax ester molecule, could explain many of the benefits we have observed in research and among consumers.“
Source: Frontiers in Pharmacology
Schots. P. C., et al
"Possible Health Effects of a Wax Ester Rich Marine Oil"