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Pollock oil research yields new diet supplement

A new process that purifies Alaska pollock liver oil has resulted in a commercially produced diet supplement.

Alex Oliveira, associate professor with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program in the University of Alaska Fairbanks School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, developed the molecular distillation process.

“The major leap is to have Alaska pollock oil break into the nutraceutical market, which is still expanding yearly, and the shift in application for pollock oils," said Oliveira. Pollock is by far the highest-volume fishery in Alaska, and using pollock livers to produce a high purity nutraceutical makes environmental sense and increases the value of the fishery.

American Marine Ingredients, a subsidiary of American Seafoods Co., adapted Oliveira’s distillation process and recently released the product 54°North Omega-3 with Vitamin D3 in capsule form. In the recent past, American Seafoods mainly used pollock oil for biofuel in boilers onboard their vessels. The boilers did not consume all the oil. With the potential availability of excess pollock oil, the industry looked to producing oil for human consumption.

Molecular distillation (also called short path distillation) differs substantially from traditional processing used to purify fish oil, in that it does not require use of chemicals and generates virtually no processing waste. Oliveira’s work was supported by a grant from the Pollock Conservation Cooperative Research Center. Funding for PCCRC projects comes from several seafood processing companies that operate in Alaska.

A few years ago Oliveira’s presentations on her pollock oil research at international conferences piqued the interest of the fish oil industry. The New Zealand government sent Matthew Miller to her lab at the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, where she helped him purify New Zealand hoki oil. The process was successful for hoki, and also for Pacific cod liver oils through a project funded by Alaskan Leader Fisheries and Aleutian Spray Fisheries. Oliveira and Miller have submitted a manuscript on the pollock and hoki oil projects to the journal Nutrients.

Richard Draves, American Seafoods vice president of product development, reports that 54°North Omega-3 is selling well and they are making a good profit. Oliveira’s project was the focus of his keynote presentation at the Pacific Fisheries Technologists Conference in Monterey, Calif., in February.

The company is looking for more ways use pollock products. One example is skins and their potential use in dog treats, a research project for which Oliveira just received PCCRC funds. The treat market is growing fast as pet owners become more aware of nutrition and look for healthier product alternatives. Fish protein and fish oils are desirable ingredients, offering an alternative to corn and soybean meal or beef and pork byproducts.

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