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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