20 July 2020 - Fish have long been part of the human diet and often considered as 'brain food'. Recent research in this area suggests that eating fish is good for early brain development and may also prevent many brain-related conditions.
Our ocean may also offer a vast resource of new substances that could lead to new food products with human health benefits. As marine organisms live in complex habitats and are exposed to extreme conditions, they produce a wide variety of specific substances that cannot be found elsewhere. Many marine organisms could be a potential reservoir for chemical compounds that may be used as food ingredients which could offer human health benefits.
In 2018, Bio-marine Ingredients Ireland (BII) in collaboration with Dublin College University and University of Limerick, were awarded funding of €200,000 under the Marine Institute's Industry-Led Awards Scheme to conduct research with the goal of developing a new health supplement based on blue whiting fish protein.
Under this research project, BII has produced a soluble protein hydrolysate powder, which may be rich in nutrients and vitamins to improve the muscular health of elderly people. Decreased muscular strength and muscle wasting are of concern in the elderly population. Muscle loss can be significant enough to cause weakness, increase fall risk, and limit a person's independence and decrease quality of life.
The next stage of the research project, will include a clinical study at Dublin College University with healthy elderly subjects taking the nutritional supplements alongside an 8-12 week physical exercise program. Blood samples will be assessed before and after the clinical study to indicate the level of healthy muscle metabolism. The impact of the soluble protein hydrolysate powder on muscle metabolism will be assessed using human muscle cells at the University of Limerick.
BII extracts proteins, oil and calcium from fish caught in the Atlantic for use in food ingredients and nutrition products. BII is a joint venture between Irish fishing vessel owners and Norwegian partners who are experts in marine ingredients. In Lough Egish, Co Monaghan, BII have built the most advanced, food-grade, bio-refinery in the world.
Dr Snehal Gite, Senior Research and Development Technologist at BII said, "We are one of the first companies globally to take under-utilised raw fish materials and transform them into powders suited to applications for human nutrition. At BII, we are processing a low value Blue Whiting fish into a high value nutritional ingredient which could offer enormous benefits for skeletal health in older people. The outcome of this research project could see BII enter a valuable global market, which will ultimately benefit Irish fishermen, industry and the associated supply chain."
The successful outcome of this project could see the introduction of a new Irish health ingredient into a global market worth €12.4 billion. In developing value added products from fish biomass, the project can also enhance sustainability in the fisheries sector.
Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute said, "Supporting research such as these, enables Irish companies to build their research and development capacity and to innovate, creating new business opportunities and jobs. These are key goals of Ireland's marine plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth."
The Marine Institute's Oceans of Learning series this week focuses on the ocean and its connection to human health and wellbeing. Oceans of Learning offers videos, interactive activities and downloadable resources which are available at Our Ocean: Our Health and Wellbeing.
Funding for this research project was provided by the Marine Institute and the Government of Ireland, co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).