Nutegrity joins omega-3s blending game with new fish oil/phospholipid ingredient

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Omega Protein harvests menhaden in Chesapeake Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Omega Protein harvests menhaden in Chesapeake Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Related tags Krill oil Fish oil Omega-3 fatty acid

Nutegrity, the human nutrition division of Omega Protein Corporation, has joined the omega-3s blending game with a new ingredient called OmegaActiv + PL. The new product is a mix of triglyceride fish oil and phospholipids.

Nutegrity has long been active in the fish oil space. Omega Protein, now in business for more than a century, is the largest harvester of the forage fish menhaden and is the biggest fish oil processor located in the United States. The company has had OmegaActiv on the market for a number years.

In those years the market has changed significantly. The standard 18/12 oils are now becoming somewhat passé, and ever higher concentrations of EPA and DHA are the order of the day. New sources of omega-3s have come onto the market, too, including fish oil from Alaskan pollock, krill oil and algal oil ingredients.

Companies are also seeking to differentiate themselves on the basis of chemistry. For example, the purveyors of krill oil have pointed to what they term the greater “bioefficiency” of the phospholipid matrix that characterizes that ingredient. Algal EPA producer Qualitas Health has pushed the phospholipid and glycolipid content of its ingredient.  

Unique phospholipid blend

Now Nutegrity has taken this path with its new blend, which mixes fish oil with plant-based phospholipids and lysophospholipids.  The new ingredient also includes astaxanthin, which can also be found in krill oil.

“The molecular weight of the lysophospholipids is a little bit different and there is some thought that how they bind in the gut is significant,”​ April Lewton, Nutegrity’s category director for lipids told NutraIngredients-USA. “It’s emerging science, so it would be hard to make a claim around it.  But we do talk about it with our partners.”

According to Nutegrity, among the advantages of phospholipids are that they can be found as part of the vital membrane for every living cell in the body; they protect cell integrity and structure. As primary building blocks of the cellular membranes, phospholipids are part of the mechanism that screens and protects cells. Lysophospholipids in particular play an important role in regulating cell fluidity and permeability. 

Natural channel access

A big advantage of the new ingredient, Lewton said, is that is phospholipid-rich ingredient that is palatable for those who control what goes onto natural channel store shelves.  Several years ago Whole Foods took krill oil products off of its shelves over sustainability concerns (that decision, characterizing krill as not sustainable, was hotly contested by the krill oil suppliers, it should be noted).  While competing natural channel sellers were of course not obliged to follow suit, Whole Foods’ decisions do set a tone, and krill oil sales in the natural channel plummeted as a result.

“You are getting higher omega-3s than you would typically get with krill oil and it is something that can go onto the natural product shelf,”​ Lewton said.  Omega Protein’s fishery is vertically integrated, conforms to US fishing regulations and is certified sustainable by the Friend of the Sea organization.  The new blend offers a minimum of 150 mg of omega-3s per 500 mg soft gel, she said.

The krill oil companies have emphasized the importance of having the omega-3s bound directly to the phospholipid backbone.  Lewton said that from Nutegrity’s perspective, the issue of bound vs free phospholipids is not so cut and dried.

“I think the trials that have been done on phospholipids have been short and small,”​ Lewton said. “We did a review of the science and I don’t believe that data that says either way is better than another.  Bioavailability is not a concern with omega 3s in general.”

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