Would you take seal oil?

In a recent Diabetes Management Journal that ended up my desk. “Could seal oil reverse diabetic neuropathy?

This article refers to a study done in Toronto, Canada on just 40 type I diabetic patients whose peripheral nerves have been damaged by their illness. This was an open label-study, proof of concept study. So not randomised nor blinded. The authors used corneal confocal microscopy to look at the changes in the corneal nerve fibre length as a surrogate for more peripheral nerve damage, thus avoiding the need for a nerve biopsy.

The study has been taken up by a number of web and print medical news journals,

I wonder if the editors of these news journal, or indeed the authors of the research paper considered the ethical dilemma of harvesting oil from species protected in many countries around the world, including Australia.
The oil used in this study was sourced from Auum who according to their website are at the forefront of omega-3 supplements. Further, it claims to be “dedicated to developing and manufacturing superior nutritional products to support the health of all.” That is of course unless you happen to be a Canadian seal.

seal-hunt
The Harp Seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) appears on the IUCN Red List as an creature (some would say resource) of “least concern”. Canada’s seal hunt remains mighty controversial even within Canada. National Geographic asks why Canada still allows a seal hunt. And there is more emotive posts about Canada’s seal hunt, for example The Dodo website. Obviously there are proponents of seal hunting, and you can buy seal products, such as Canadian Sealers Association. Another proponent of seal oils suggests that the cute cuddly white coated variety are no longer hunted. It is okay to harvest these older seals as they are able to swim on their own and have left or been abandoned by their mothers. So that makes it okay if they are “abandoned”. Kerthunk…..

A problems with seal oil is the potential for contamination. One product blurb for seal oil appears to suggest that their product is safe as it is bio-filtered fish oil. As seals are much higher in the food chain than fish, “seals use their digestive system to filter out the many natural impurities found in fish.” Conversely biological dogma suggests the further up the food chain you travel, the more likely you end up with more contaminants, such as mercury, PCBs etc, not less. Dr Ho, who can sell you seal oil overcomes this problem through a process molecular distillation. His process removes all the impurities, such as mercury, metals and PCB’s from the oil and makes it a purer product that is safer for human consumption.

Interestingly, I found on DPAGold another Canadian seal oil distributor’s website this paper written by researchers at RMIT, Melbourne and supported by Meat and Livestock Australia. The authors suggested that taking 10 seal oil capsules a day “may be more efficient than fish oil at promoting healthy plasma lipid profiles and lowering thrombotic risk”.  Thankfully, Meat and Livestock Australia will have to keep their hands (or clubs and harpoons) off Australian seals through federal legislation.

Personally, if I need more omega-3 in my diet I would be using the Australian Heart Foundation list of natural dietary sources and thankfully omits seals, which are protected in Australian waters.

Harp-seal-+-pup1
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Emergency at 30,000 feet.

Three hours into an intercontinental flight, the dark blue waters of the Pacific ocean pass below. A cloudless azure sky offers contrast. The remains of another airline lunch has been collected. Postprandial heads began nodding. A few fellow passengers have already succumbed to slumber assisted by duty free spirits.

 “Can a medical practitioner please make themselves known to a member of the cabin crew, please”

A few people steal quick looks around. Maybe hoping someone else may volunteer, maybe just curious.

Finally, a hand reaches for the call button, a red light came on with a ding. Dave stands, sweeping the remains of crumbs from lunch from his shirt front. He adjusts his glasses and steps into the aisle. A flight attendant strides up with a serious professional look on her face. “Come this way please” and he follows her to the rear of the aircraft. There, a young lad lays curled up looking like he was in some distress. A plaintiff cry intermittently escapes his lips. Next to him a woman, obviously his mother, is worriedly mopping his brow, saying “shhh”. The Father similarly worried, is in the next seat to the the pair.

“Are you a doctor?” the Purser inquires “Do you have some identification?” she continues, demanding polite but firm.

Taken a little aback Dave mutters “Yes, just a minute” he fumbles his wallet from his jeans. Chuckling as he looks through his wallet for some form of identity, “Maybe I should have worn my stethoscope around my neck?” Finally he pulled out his RACGP ID card and offered it. “Hmmm, okay that will do”, the Purser accepted. “Can you help with this young man. He has pain”.

Dave takes the empty seat next to the lad and asks a few questions of the lad’s parents. He lays a confident palm onto the lad’s belly, skilfully feeling, discerning the pain and its possible causes. He nods, knowingly distilling the information. He stands to talk to the Purser, “Where’s the nearest place we land to get the lad to a hospital?” In the blue emptiness of the Pacific there was no where closer than from whence they came. Dave rubs the quickly developing stubble on his chin. He knows there is but one thing he can do.

He turns back to the parents to explain what he must do. Colour drains from the Mother’s face, the Father just nods, silently shocked. Dave looks into the offered medical kit then turns to the Purser, whispering a few requests. The pair heads to the first class galley.

Dave returns, having marshaled his resources and equipment from what he could find. He gives the lad a large tot of first-class OP rum, splashing more onto his own hands and the remainder onto the now naked groin of this stoic young lad. He directed the two burliest cabin crew to hold onto the lad’s arms. To the parents he whispered “its going to be okay, just breath”.

The father solemnly nods to Dave then looks into his son’s eyes, which are now tightly shut unaware of what is about to happen.

Dave pulls on the latex gloves, flicking the cuffs. There is a hush only broken by the noise of the jet engines outside. Armed with sharpest steak knife Dave could find, still warm from its dunk in boiling water, he skilfully cuts into the lad’s tense scrotum. Linen serviettes soak up the blood. He picks up a pair of nail scissors and eye brow tweezers and continues his artful surgery.

The lad gives a rum tainted groan and gratefully lapses into unconsciousness. A young lady in seat 25E quietly vomits into a sick bag. Her partner grimaces and crosses his legs.

Adroitly, Dave untwists the dusky organ on its stalk. A flush of fresh blood fills the testicle. Those watching burst into spontaneous applause.

Finally Dave uses the Purser’s stapler to close the wound and wraps the scrotum in a clean silken scarf.

The young lad’s Father gives a weak smile knowing his son’s future progeny has been saved. Dave wipes his hands on a fresh first class serviette.

The Purser directs Dave to his first class upgrade, hands over a card for lifetime membership of the airlines Gold club and cracks a bottle of Moet. “Well done Doc, I’d fly with you any day”

Behind, the final smart phone camera video light flicker off awaiting an active wifi link.

The pilot announces that the planned emergency diversion to Kiribati is no required to the grateful passengers.

– A work of fiction


 

And if you thought this impossible and not too sqeamish…