Is Calamari Oil the Next Big Omega-3?

April 14, 2014

Once a waste product, squid visceral is now used to manufacture DHA-rich omega-3 products.

Squid is sold mostly for its tender little meats, but, beyond its arms and tentacles, squid offers plenty of oil. The oil can be used in dietary supplements, and if we’ve learned anything from krill oil, it’s that there’s plenty of room on the market for a fish oil alternative.

For squid oil to compete within the omega-3 market, manufacturers will need to distinguish squid from other marine sources. Fortunately, squid has several distinctions. At least in the case of Argentinian shortfin squid (Illex argentinus), the lifecycle of the animal is 12-14 months, meaning the population is constantly reproducing. This bodes well for sustainability, and so does the fact that squid oil can be sourced from preexisting squid fisheries.

“We harvest the oil from squid visceral,” says Michael Jeffers, CEO of squid oil supplier Helios Corp. (Santa Fe, NM). “The fisheries we work with-they were just throwing it overboard.”

Beyond the truly appealing fact that squid oil can be made from squid that are already being fished for food, squid oil has some unique scientific characteristics. Unlike krill and fish, which contain more EPA omega-3 than DHA omega-3, squid’s omega-3 ratio is reversed. The resulting oil can be tailored to DHA products, and, at least in the case of Helios’s ingredient, the oil is clear and crystalline in appearance and with little odor.

Another benefit to squid is that these animals appear to have a very low threat of mercury contamination. The Natural Resources Defense Council includes squid in its list of low-mercury seafoods.

While squid oil may conjure up images of monstrous cephalopods, calamari oil has exotic appeal and is grounded in a rather familiar seafood dish. Early launches of retail calamarioil suggest that calamari oil is a preferred marketing name.