Omega-3 fatty acids are fats commonly found in marine and plant oils and are thought to have nutritional benefits ranging from the prevention of heart disease to depression. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the human body, but are vital for normal metabolism. However, extracting high-quality fatty acids from fish to create supplements for human consumption presented a number of challenges - until NOAA scientists came up with a new way.
The innovative process developed by scientists at NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, and patented in 1992, improved the method for purifying and enriching omega-3s from fish oils. The process involves exposing the oil extracted from fish to a chemical reaction and then removing any by-products of the reaction, such as alcohol. The process produces a higher extraction of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids from the oil, which makes the process more economical for manufacturers of supplements.