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Fish Oils Supplements or Whole Fish

Eco-Nutrition: Fish Oils To Coral Calcium-Our Environmental Dilemma

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Should we use nutrition supplements from food and plants that are not ecologically sustainable?

Are your dietary supplements you use to reach optimal health ruining the optimal health of our fragile Earth?


If you are an environmentalist or ‘environmental friendly’ please read on. This article may help you make better decisions about the dietary supplements you buy.

This post is part of a series on Econutrition. Ecological nutrition is making environmentally sustainable nutritional choices or integrating our nutrition in an ecological sustainable way. If you wanted to read other articles in this series, please click here: Eco-Nutrition, Good Nutrition Choices with Ecological Sustainability.

From Fish Oils to Coral Calcium and Other Supplements: How to Make the Right Choices

If you are like me, you are trying to make good nutritional choices while trying to respect our Mother Earth.

You know that the supplement market is big business and consumers spend billions of dollars a year on buying supplements.

Due to the competitive supplement market, manufacturers continue to seek cost-effective and new ways to meet the high consumer demand. And with every company, there is always the bottom line: cost versus profit, thinking in the short-term.

With supplements manufactured from food and plants (such as fish oils and coral calcium), there is inevitably nature’s environmental balance that is at risk. Can we entirely blame the supplement manufacturers for their mark on the environment? After all, isn’t it the consumer’s high demand that motivates companies to produce these supplements from our environment without thinking about the long-term effects?

My call to action is to help you to find a compromise with choosing environmentally friendly supplements. I have written this article using questions and answers with links to resources. But I don’t know the whole story. Some of you reading this article know more than me about the environment, supplements and eco-friendly choices. (So please, add your opinion and comments below).

First, a question that answered on a personal level:

Should we use nutrition supplements from food and plants that are not ecologically sustainable?

This is your choice. But why not make it an informed one?

If I choose to not take any nutrition supplements, can I still be healthy from diet alone?

Yes. (I am the proof-more on that at the end of the article).

What type of supplement manufacturing practices have the most effect on our environment?

Dietary supplements extracted from food or plants.  In particular, fish oils and coral calcium.

How does fish oil supplements manufacturing effect the environment?

Extracted fish oils are one of the biggest environmental concerns in the supplement industry. Fish oil is typically pulled from adding heat to fish scraps of farmed fish. For every pound of fish produced, several pounds of fish is given to the farmed fish for food. Thus, this is a poor environmental ratio.

The demand for fish oils has depleted an important fish in the sea. This fish, called menhaden, is the lowest fish on the chain and is an important algae eater and water filter. This delicate balance in our oceans is destroyed by companies who over-fish this small wonder. Discover magazine writes an excellent article on the subject, which you can read here: “The Most Important Fish in The Sea.”

But if the label of the fish oil supplement states that it is environmentally friendly, should I believe them?

Not always.

Food supplement labels are marketed to sell. One deceptive practice is to label a fish oil as coming from herring when it actually comes from menhaden, the small fish wonder that is becoming extinct.

According to H. Bruce Franklin,….if the product uses menhaden, the manufacturer or distributor puts ‘herring’ in the list of fish ingredients.  So if ‘herring’ is on the label, choose  another brand.” (source here)

There has been a lot of talk about krill oil as a fish supplement. Is this a more environmentally friendly option?

According to Dr.Mercola (a source I trust), krill fish oil is an environmentally friendly option and a better source of omega 3 when compared to typical fish oils. See the info-graphic here.

Note-there is controversy about this subject. I would welcome your opinion if you have a story to tell.

Which fish oil supplements should I look for if I want to be more environmentally friendly?

  • Those that don’t say ‘herring’ on the label.
  • Krill oil.

How can I get benefits of fish oils without supplementation?

Fish oils contain high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. You can supplement your diet with whole food sources of omega 3. These include: canned sardines (see a recipe here), mackerel or anchovies as small fish sources or flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds (buy local or seeds produced closer to your home when possible) as plant sources. (Note that plant sources do not have the same bio-availability of omega 3 as a fish source does.)

Did you know that the production of some calcium supplements are ruining a part of our coral reefs?

Coral calcium supplements manufactured from above sea and below sea coral reefs (marine coral calcium).

Should I be concerned about being eco-friendly with coral calcium supplements?

Yes. There are two ways to extract calcium: from below sea level (called Marine sea level) and above sea level. Marine sea level requires a process,

“which includes a 250 foot industrial dredging ship lowering a large pipe to the bottom of the ocean and vacuuming. This method not only takes the dead coral debris but destroys the reef eco system by generating a thick layer of silt which smothers the reef killing the coral larvae that grow future reefs in the surrounding areas.”

Above sea calcium:

Above-sea coral calcium uses Okinawa coral that was pushed up above-sea level geologically. The harvesting occurs by cleaning the top soil off of ancient coral heads and trucking them off to a grinding facility with minimal environmental impact. (Sources for both here)

Conclusion: buy above sea calcium.

My personal views on dietary supplements: 

At the moment, I don’t take any dietary supplements because I do not feel the health need to do so. My annual physicals show that my current Mediterranean diet and lifestyle seems to provide everything my body needs to stay healthy. I do believe that dietary supplements have a place in our diet and I support the use of them in the right doses.

Furthermore, certain supplements, such as coral calcium, may be harmful in high doses and research is showing that to prevent osteoporosis, calcium dietary supplementation may not be the ideal way to stay keep our bones healthy. (source here).

The call to action:

To help you make the right choices for you with your nutritional supplement choices and our environment. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

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Warmly, Mary

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