Nfld. & Labrador

Nutritional treasures found in moose meat, antlers

A trio of special lipids that fight diseases like diabetes have been found in moose and caribou meat, and moose antlers.

The compounds could be used in nutraceutical and specialized food products

Moose meat, seen here in the Newfoundland episode of CNN's Parts Unknown, is beloved by many, but one team is exploring if it can help with the treatment of diabetes, inflammation and cardiovascular diseases. (CNN/Parts Unknown)

A scientist in Corner Brook has found a few more important reasons to get your moose each season.

Raymond Thomas and his team have found evidence of particular types of functional lipids in moose and caribou meat, and in moose antlers, that have shown promise in the treatment of diabetes, inflammation and cardiovascular diseases.

"I've realized from my time here that moose is very, very popular as part of the Newfoundland landscape for positive and negative reasons, so I decided that I was going to look at the lipid profile … of the antlers," said Thomas, whose team is based in the Functional Foods Laboratory on Memorial University's Grenfell campus.

He found three very special compounds: monoacetyldiglycerides, diglycerides and fatty acid esters of hydroxy fatty acids, in both moose and caribou meat and in moose antlers.

For comparison, a type of red deer in Korea whose antlers are often used in traditional medicine contains only one of those three compounds.

New source could lead to new products

His team's discovery opens up the door for new sources of the lipids for nutraceutical products or for specialized food products.

It could also be a boost for disease specialists.

"They would have … new sources of these compounds to see if they have benefit beyond what is currently available."

The team at the Functional Foods Laboratory on Memorial University's Grenfell campus is also analyzing moose antlers. (CBC)

Though the lipids don't show up in high concentrations, a little goes a long way.

"They're very potent in their bioactivity at low concentrations," he told CBC Radio's On the Go.

Antlers have a higher concentration of the treasured compounds than meat, he said.

Cover story

Thomas and his team published their findings in the open-source chemistry journal Molecules, and their discovery has been chosen as the cover story for the journal's print edition.

Thomas said they published their results in an open-access journal so other scientists could delve into their findings and figure out how to best use this big nutritional find.

As for he and his team, they've got a few ideas about where they'd like to take these moose molecules, but "as a scientist, you don't really want to throw everything on the table," he said, laughing.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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