Fish oil is the naturally occurring oil found in the tissues of fish. This oil is consumed as a nutritional supplement, usually in liquid or capsule form. Fish oil contains high levels of omega 3 fatty acids which are believed to have a number of health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving cardiovascular health. Recent studies have also shown potential benefits of fish oil in treating cancer, improving mental health, as well as in alzheimer’s and parkinson’s disease. Let’s find out how this popular supplement is made.
How is fish oil produced?
The process of making fish oil begins with raw fish that has either been wild caught or farmed. This fish enters the plant where it is cut into pieces and cooked with steam. The cooked fish is then centrifuged (spun at high speed) or pressed to separate the dry solid portion and the wet portion (oil and water). The dry solids are then removed and processed into fish meal, which is used to feed animals and farmed fish. The liquid is then removed from the oil and the impurities are removed from this oil with hot water. Antioxidants are then added to the oil, to increase shelf life and prevent the oil from turning rancid, and it is packed into capsules or bottles for shipping.
Fish species that are high in oil are most commonly used to make fish oil for human consumption. These include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, flounder and tilefish. A number of other pelagic fish, including swordfish, marlin and many shark species, are also high in fish oil. However, these species are not used in fish oil production because of concerns about toxic substances, such as mercury and ditoxins, that pass through the food chain to these larger predators.
Did you know?
The largest producers of fish oil are Peru, Denmark, Chile, Iceland and Norway. Peru alone manufactures about a quarter of all the fish oil in the world!