Crude Sardinella longiceps oil was refined in different stages such as degumming, neutralization, bleaching, and deodorization. The efficiency of these processes was evaluated on the basis of free fatty acid (FFA), peroxide (PV), p-anisidine (pAV), total oxidation (TOTOX), thiobarbituric acid reactive species (TBARS) values, Lovibond CIE-L*a*b* color analyses, and (1)H NMR or GC-MS experiments. The utilities of NMR-based proton signal characteristics as new analytical tools to understand the signature peaks and relative abundance of different fatty acids and monitoring the refining process of fish oil have been demonstrated. Phosphoric acid (1%) was found to be an effective degumming reagent to obtain oil with the lowest FFA, PV, pAV, TOTOX, and TBARS values and highest color reduction. Significant reduction in the contents of hydrocarbon functionalities as shown by the decrease in proton integral in the characteristic (1)H NMR region was demonstrated by using 1% H3PO4 during the course of the degumming process. A combination (1.25:3.75%) of activated charcoal and Fuller's earth at 3% concentration for a stirring time of 40 min was found to be effective in bleaching the sardine oil. This study demonstrated that unfavorable odor-causing components, particularly low molecular weight carbonyl compounds, could successfully be removed by the refining process. The alkane-dienals/alkanes, which cause unfavorable fishy odors, were successfully removed by distillation (100 °C) under vacuum with aqueous acetic acid solution (0.25 N) to obtain greater quality of refined sardine oil, a rich source of essential fatty acids and improved oxidative stability. The present study demonstrated that the four-stage refinement process of sardine oil resulted in a significant improvement in quality characteristics and nutritional values, particularly n-3 PUFAs, with improved fish oil characteristics for use in the pharmaceutical and functional food industries.
Keywords: Sardinella longiceps; activated charcoal; bleaching; degumming; deodorization; fuller’s earth.