Facts with impact

The restorative strength of Greenshell mussels

Research supported by High-Value Nutrition (HVN) and Sanford Ltd shows that Greenshell™ mussels may reduce recovery time in young males after intense exercise and joint pain in older women with osteoarthritis[1],[2].

Greenshell mussels with the text: Aotearoa Greenshell mussels are uniquely rich in fats which reduece recovery time after exercise

These discoveries, from three human clinical trials conducted by the Cawthron Institute and Massey University in collaboration, are part of an extensive series of projects High-Value Nutrition and Sanford Ltd have been leading since 2016.

Initial research into Aoteroa’s mighty mollusk found that Greenshell™ mussels contain unique lipids including omega-3s which maintain and improve joint health. Continued investigation sought to develop the evidence required to support a health claim for Greenshell™ mussels that would put them on the world stage.

Currently, Greenshell™ mussel nutraceutical extracts are highly sought after for their numerous health benefits. In fact, Greenshell™ mussel oil has the highest financial value of any nutritional oil in the world (~$2000NZ/kg) due to it being the richest source of omega-3s, more so than regular fish oil. In contrast, the food product is one of the cheapest forms of marine protein (~$12NZ/kg). The work of High-Value Nutrition and Sanford Ltd aimed to build scientific evidence that proves the immense health benefits of not just the oil, but the whole mussels themselves.

This programme of work also underpinned the development of a Greenshell™ mussel quality mark from Aquaculture NZ. The quality mark gives consumers the confidence that products contain only New Zealand Greenshell™ mussel powder with a minimum lipid content of 8%. As the demand for Greenshell™ mussel powder grows globally, this quality mark ensures that consumers can trust the origin and authenticity of the product they are purchasing.

To approach the research in a more holistic way, the programme was supported by Vision Mātauranga. A report was developed to understand the published literature of the traditional and customary uses of kūkū / kūtai (Greenshell™ mussel), particularly around the impacts on health. The traditional literature, as well as historical Māori narratives, were explored to understand how Māori have utilised kūkū. This has been expanded to look further back at Polynesian cultures’ use of bivalves in general and the findings were recently published3. The Cawthron Institute also hosted a Pūhoro STEMM Academy Māori summer intern to look at the nutritional profile of Tori – traditionally fermented Greenshell™ mussel products.

As well as validating numerous health benefits of Greenshell™ mussels, the results from this long-term programme have led to the creation of a Sanford Bioactives Division, with Sanford investing in a new $25m bioactives extraction facility in Blenheim. This will enable the development of new high-value products backed by robust scientific research and couldn’t have been possible without the support of High-Value Nutrition.

The potential for more projects like this one is linked to funding. With research led by High-Value Nutrition, more industries within New Zealand’s food and beverage sector can benefit from validated health benefits, uncovered insights and product expansion, elevating our country’s exports.

[1] Lomiwes, D., Barnes Shaw, O., Ngametua,  N., Burr, N., Hedderley, D.,  Kanon, A., Bear, T. (2023). The Efficacy of New Zealand Greenshell™ Mussel Powder Supplementation in Supporting Muscle Recovery Following Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Healthy, Untrained Adult Males. Nutrients, 15(10), 2316.

[2] Abshirini, M., Coad, J., Wolber, F.M., von Hurst, P., Miller, M.R., Tian, H.S., Kruger, M.C. Effect of green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) supplementation on faecal microbiota, body composition and iron status markers in overweight and obese postmenopausal women: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Nutritional Science. 12e58.

3 https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/15/5/3912