Food processors may soon be fishing for skeletons, with research suggesting that an alternative source of proteoglycans and chondroitin sulfate for health food formulations is found in large quantities in bony fish heads. The study, carried out by academics from Tokyo University of Scienceexamined how different bony fish may have important and healthy proteins in their cartilage, which are often rejected by food processors.
Aggrecan, a major component of proteoglycan (PG) containing chondroitin sulfate (CS) in cartilage tissues, has become increasingly popular as an ingredient in health foods. Currently, commercially available chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) are prepared only from salmon nasal cartilage found in salmon heads. Prior to this study, other bony fish were known to have cartilage in their heads, but information was sparse on the protein composition of this cartilage.
Japanese research analyzed the cartilage of 10 fish to understand if they could also supply aggrecan and the study found that all bony fish tested had some level of proteoglycans. This is important for food processing because the cartilaginous parts of the fish are usually discarded; this research suggests that these parts could be used as a source of aggrecan.
“Cartilage from the head of bony fish is an underutilized resource and is usually discarded after food processing,” said Dr Kyohei Higashi, one of the study’s authors. “PGs, especially from sturgeon, have a similar CS structure to salmon nasal cartilage, showing that sturgeon has a lot of potential to be an alternative source of CSPGs for health food formulations. “
The researchers now hope to continue their research on bony fish, and sturgeon in particular, to understand how they might be a good source of proteoglycans for health foods.
The research was published in the International Journal of Biology Macromolecules.