While the ‘Certified for Sport’ tag is a must-have to sell supplements to certain sports organizations that test their players for banned substances, it’s really a niche market, said Monique Wellise, manager of education and professional sales for Watsonville, CA-based Nordic Naturals.
“The market for this type of product is fairly narrow. The market for this product is college and professional sports where drug testing is being done,” Wellise told NutraIngredients-USA.
The Certified for Sport program gives assurance that certified supplements are free of the more than 200 banned substances listed by the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA). WADA and other governing bodies have generally taken a zero tolerance policy toward the ingestion of these substances, meaning not even trace amounts of these substances can be in a certified product.
The risk to an athlete that a banned substance will have found its way into a supplement is higher in some categories than others and is of course higher in multiple-ingredient products. The risk presented by omega-3 supplements based on fish oil would seem to be low. Why the need for certification then?
Wellise said getting certified was done merely to be able to play in the market at all and was not a statement of the risk presented by the omega-3s category as a whole. Nordic Naturals brought its first Certified for Sport product out about five years ago.
“Within those organizations that do testing the athletes are not allowed to take any supplements, regardless of category, that are not certified,” Wellise said.
Wellise said having the liquid product certified was important because of the high dosages of EPA and DHA that athletes require. Because of the extreme wear and tear on their bodies, a typical dose for athletes might be four to six softgels a day, she said. Even among this group, compliance might tend to fall off when an athlete is being asked to swallow that many pills daily.
“This is something that can be easily mixed into a smoothie which is something many athletes are consuming every day anyway,” she said.
The addition of vitamin D3 is in recognition of the fact that recent testing has shown that many athletes, just like the general population, are deficient in this important vitamin, Wellise said. The fact that vitamin D3 is fat soluble vitamin made it an easy inclusion, too, she said.
Wellise said that Nordic Naturals’ production facility is already certified by NSF, making registering the new product fairly straightforward. It was merely a matter of time and money, she said.
Brain health benefits
One of the more controversial tie-ins of omega-3s with sport has been recent indications that these essential fatty acids can help people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Wellise said that Nordic Naturals makes no assertions along those lines and indeed the Food and Drug Administration recently issued a consumer alert stating flatly that no supplement can make this claim. Nevertheless, the evidence for the action of omega-3s in this area is suggestive, Wellise said.
“When you think about it logically, if you have a brick wall that is damaged, you use bricks to rebuild that wall and omega-3 fatty acids are really the building blocks of the brain,” Wellise said. “There have been studies in mice showing a prophylaxis benefit.”