How climate change could lead to omega-3 supplement shortages
Climate change is impacting different parts of the world, including our oceans, which could lead to shortages of a major nutrient (and its supplement form) down the line: omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts, have found that the availability of these healthy fats, via fish and fish oil, may become more limited as the temperature of our oceans continues to rise.
Climate change affects omega-3 sources and supplements
They arrived at these results after studying planktonic lipids – plankton, which are microscopic plants that fish eat, provide many of the omega-3 fatty acids – found in the oceans; fish consume lipid-rich plankton, which results in healthy seafood (fish and fish oil supplements, for that matter, are a primary source of omega-3 fatty acids in humans ). Ultimately, there will be fewer ocean-derived omega-3 fatty acids available over the next century, according to the team’s findings, which were published in the journal Science– and this could impact the availability of the vitamin in the future, both through fresh fish and supplementation.
After studying 930 plankton lipid samples, the research team discovered “unknown features of ocean planktonic lipidomes” across the ocean. “By focusing on 10 molecularly diverse classes of glycerolipids, we identified 1,151 distinct lipid species, finding that fatty acid unsaturation (i.e. the number of carbon-carbon double bonds) is fundamentally limited by temperature. We expect significant decreases in eicosapentaenoic acid, an essential fatty acid [EPA] over the next century, which are likely to have severe deleterious effects on economically critical fisheries,” the researchers said.
“All organisms in the ocean have to deal with water temperature. With this study, we revealed one of the important biochemical ways for cells,” said Henry C. Holm, a doctoral student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of the study “These EPA findings were made possible by using a method that gives us a very complete picture of the glycerolipids in each sample. We saw that temperature was related to membrane saturation cellphones everywhere we looked in the ocean.
By the end of the 21st century, researchers believe sea surface temperatures will be so warm that most species that create the EPA, including plankton, will die off. As a result, fish will not be able to consume these species and their healthy omega-3 acids, making the vitamin less available and viable for humans. Add greenhouse gas emissions into the equation, and we could be looking at a 25% decrease in the overall EPA produced by plankton.
Lipids are important to humans because they impact energy storage and cell membranes in the body, and many lipid producers and boosters come from the sea. “The composition of lipids in the ocean will change at as the ocean warms,” said Benjamin Van Mooy, senior scientist in OMSI’s Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry and co-author of the study, in a Press release. “It’s a cause for concern. We need these lipids that are in the ocean because they influence the quality of food that the ocean produces for humanity.
This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com
(Hero and featured image credit: enviromantic/Getty Images)
© 2021 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Licensed by MarthaStewart.com and published with permission by Meredith Corporation. Reproduction in any manner in any language, in whole or in part, without prior written permission is prohibited.