Arctic Blue Blog

Anchovies: 30 small fish in one fish oil capsule!

Caller: "What is your fish oil made from?" A silence... Fish oil producer customer service: "I'm going to check with my colleague." 5 minutes later. "We don't know that, but we do know that it is 100% purified". Caller: "Purified from what? Bones?" Customer service fish oil producer: "Uh, yes!".Β 

To cry, of course. What is the story behind the fish oil (capsules)?

What is anchovy?

Anchovies, also known as anchovies, are small, oily fish that are often used as flavoring in various cuisines around the world. They have a strong and distinctive flavor, which can be quite salty and savory. Anchovies are often used in sauces, dressings, pizzas, salads and pasta dishes to add flavor. They can be found in cans or jars, usually with oil or salt.

Where are anchovies found?

Anchovies are found in many parts of the world, but they are mainly found in temperate and tropical waters. They usually swim in large schools in coastal waters, along rocky shores and in shallow seas. Anchovies thrive in waters with moderate to warm temperatures and are often found in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific Oceans.

What fish is used in fish oil capsules?Β 

Fish oil capsules are often made from fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This can also be a mixture of different fish. Some of the most commonly used fish species for producing fish oil capsules are:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies

Over 70 years ago, small fish like anchovies were seen as garbage you couldn't sell. The beginning of grinding them into fishmeal and omega-3s. From a waste product to a new market.Β 

The Keuringsdienst van Waarde devoted an episode to fish oil capsules in October 2015. For many brands, this was embarrassing because the main source of fish oil was revealed. It featured German biologist and expert on South America and its fish oil industry, Stefan AustermΓΌhle. The Keuringsdienst van Waarde revealed that it takes 30 anchovies to produce one fish oil capsule.

In our infographic we show the differences between South American fish oil (made from whole anchovies and sardines, or often cryptically described as deep-sea fish) and Arctic Blue's Norwegian fish oil (made from trimmings from cod fillets).

Does sustainable fish oil exist?

Yes! So it is important to pay attention to some points when buying a fish oil supplement.Β 

Sustainable with label

Are you familiar with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seal of approval? Products that grind whole fish or small fish will never carry this label. This is because it is a huge waste to grind that huge amount of fish when it could be used for humans and animals.Β 

To be truly sustainable, we must protect the food sources of marine animals and not harm the oceans, the environment or local communities. A better choice is to use leftover fish fillets for fish oil after the fish have already been eaten.

What other things can I look out for when buying fish oil?

Besides sustainability, you obviously want the best product for your own body and those close to you. Below you can read about other important points to consider:

1. Clean fish oilΒ 

Much fish for fish oil comes from far away, from the polluted Pacific Ocean between Asia and South America. In the Barents Sea, one of the world's cleanest waters, mostly wild cod swim, from which leftovers are used.

Although almost all fish contain some contamination, it is good to test for heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins. These must be purified from the fish oil to obtain an extremely clean oil.

2. Freshness

The freshness of oil is measured as oxidation value. A high value gives a strong fish smell and taste, which can lead to unpleasant burps. Fresh oil never smells like fish when you burp it. The freshness of fish oil is accurately measured in a lab as an oxidation or Totox value. The lower this value, the better.

Omega-3 fatty acids are sensitive to air exposure. To keep Totox levels low, adding antioxidants such as tocopherol-rich extract, rosemary extract and fat-soluble vitamin C (ascorbyl palmitate) is important.

3. Natural form: triglycerides!

It is good to check which form the fish oil contains. We know of two types:

  • Ethyl esters are unstable fats with reduced absorption, high risk of oxidation and a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste. These are used because it is easier and cheaper.
  • The triglyceride form is the natural form as fats occur in nature. Your body absorbs this form well and it is a stable form.

Would you like to take it a notch more sustainable and prefer not to use fish at all? Then algae oil is a good choice.

Finally, make a sustainable choice

Telephone conversation with a fish oil producer shows the lack of transparency behind fish oil capsules. Anchovies, once considered waste, are now a major source of fish oil. Unfortunately, its production has major ecological consequences. Fortunately, sustainable fish oil also exists. This requires you to be critical and pay attention to labels, origin, purity and freshness of the oil. Eventually the fish oil industry should take responsibility, but until then you can make an informed choice!