August 23, 2017
The shoguns called it “Tokubetsu no Miyage”, which means precious gift. The coastal residents and fishermen in Micronesia referred to it as the “miraculous oil”. In ancient times, deep-sea sharks’ liver oil has been hailed as a source of power, force, energy, vitality and a “cure-all”. Sharks’ liver oils have been harnessed to cure a wide range of conditions even before the active compound was discovered and isolated.
It’s called Squalene.
Squalene is a fat that is made by our own bodies, it’s produced by our liver as the precursor to the synthesis of vital sterols which our bodies use to keep the skin and other tissues lubricated and moist. Squalene is secreted through the skin and is important in the skin surface lipid film that protects the body from the external environment and prevents early signs of aging. The benefits of squalene are not just skin deep, it supports a robust immunity through the synthesis of vitamin D, helps to improve metabolism, promotes a healthy digestive system and even does wonders for your hair and nails. Hence, squalene has also made its way to cosmetics and beauty products.
The bad news:
The good news:
Squalene is a nutritional compound that can be found in different foods. We can supplement our bodies with squalene to continue reaping its numerous benefits. However, we need to choose the source of our squalene wisely.
The controversial source of squalene
Squalene is not without woes especially in the eyes of marine-life conservationists and environmental activists.
In the quest for beauty, sharks have become our victims. Since squalene helps sharks to remain buoyant, shark liver oil remains the richest natural source of squalene. As a result, the cruel and over-fishing of these sharks threatens their existence and have left the marine ecosystem in chaos. Many shark species are over-fished to the brink of extinction and their slow growth and long reproductive cycle escalates the urgency for action. In 2012, a non-profit organization dedicated to marine conservation called BLOOM released a study entitled “ ‘ The hideous price of beauty: Cosmetics industry drives deep sea shark extinctions ‘ – warning the sharks that produce squalene have neared extinction in just a few years’ time to feed the consumer need.” This is the reason why Europe has since drastically reduced their fishing quotas for the shark species involved. Many cosmetic brands are also hard-pressed with this controversial source of squalene. Many brands, like L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Dove, have already responded by phasing out squalene from their products and at the same time the European cosmetic market seems to change the squalene they use to that of vegetarian origin.
NOW is the time to leave the sharks and their livers alone. Since there is no way to remove the liver without killing the shark, this cruel practice of “livering” the shark and leaving it to die a slow death is becoming increasingly unacceptable to consumers. Another limitative reason in the use of shark squalene is the presence of different persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the sea environment, like PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl), PBDE (polybrominated diphenylether), organochlorine pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxin, and heavy metals. Besides the questionable presence of harmful contaminants in shark squalene, sharks may also be infected with various pathogens and then make its way to your shark squalene soft-gels.
Cruelty, threat of extinction and quality issues with shark squalene products have fuelled a great interest in finding new natural sources of squalene – those of vegetarian origins.
Olive oil – The friendlier, healthier squalene
Squalane is not only found mostly in shark oil, but also in olives, and to a lesser extent in wheat germ and rice bran. Olive trees make squalene for the same reasons as us. Among the common vegetable oils, olive oil contains the highest percentage of squalene. In fact, olive oil from the first compression holds about 400-450 mg/100g of squalene and in some cases olive oil of premium-quality yields a higher concentration of up to 700 mg /100g.
There are many compelling reasons to ditch shark squalene and shark liver oils for olive oil. Squalene from olive oil do not pose the same contamination risks as shark squalene supplements. Furthermore, squalene is only one of the many nutritional components that extra-virgin olive oil has to offer. An organic, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil hosts a myriad of health benefits. Your heart will not be the only ones thanking you when you add a high-quality olive oil to your diet in moderation. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. These nutrients support heart health, bone health, keeps sugar levels healthy and even keeps your skin young from the inside and out.
However, not all olive oils are created equal, only a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil will give you the most benefits. Be sure to look for a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and consume it in moderation to reap its benefits to the fullest.