What’s fishy about your fish oil? The standard bottles boast over 2,000 mg in a capsule. However when your read the fine print, the part of the oil that has the benefits of decreasing inflammation, lowering cholesterol and preventing clotting and other health benefits are the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) components. When you read the label, the EPA and DHA are usually 720mg or less. Also, some of the latest studies indicate that the way a fish oil is processed and purified affects its bioavailability – meaning how much is really absorbed and gets into your system. The latest study, published in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, suggests that omega-3 fish oil concentrates that are on a triglyceride backbone have much better bioavailability than purified fish oil. There are other benefits to taking this type of fish oil. Be a savvy consumer because saving some money to get less absorption and less of the benefits may actual cost you dollars and not make much sense.
It’s important to buy purified fish oil to avoid unwanted mercury, PCB’s and other contaminants. If the fish oil is then concentrated, it can be esterified to an ethyl group (Omega 3 –EE) or re- esterified to a triglyceride backbone (Omega 3 – TAG or TG) which is the natural way oils are found in nature. It is more expensive to process the oils this way. The process of converting EE to TG is uncommon due to cost. It can add 30-40 % to the end bulk oil cost. Therefore, to keep costs low, the vast majority of fish oil concentrates sold globally are EPA and DHA EE concentrates. Because the term fat or oil refers only to TG the EPA and DHA ethyl ester concentrate is, by definition, no longer a fat or oil and is incorrectly marketed as fish oil.
A small percentage of fish oil concentrates on the market are natural TGs. To offset the increased cost, there are advantages. Here’s what studies show how they stack up.
• Because EEs rarely occur in nature this affects the way they are digested and absorbed in the body.
• The EE oils are 50 times more resistant to lipase, an enzyme that digests fat and a study showed they stopped being broken down after 10 minutes and could not continue to be absorbed. The study showed TG oil was continuously broken down and absorbed.
• Natural TG fish oil results in 50 % more absorption comparison to EE oils.
• Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EEs are much less stable than those in the natural TG form and readily oxidize.
• After a ten-week oxidation period, the EE DHA oil decayed 33 % more rapidly
• The TG form offers greater stability to the fatty acids and prevents breakdown and oxidation. Oxidized fats lead to inflammation and plaque formation the very thing you want to avoid by taking the fish oil.
To determine if your fish oil is a good quality
• Do not buy if it is labeled “Fish Oil concentrate”
• Look for the amount of EPA and DHA
• Look for rTG or TAG to be sure it is the triglyceride form
• Buy from a reputable company that has a third party test their products for potency and purity
Buying the less expensive product may save you 30%, however is it worth it to get 30% less shelf life, 50% less absorption, and a less stable product with less active ingredient and reduced capability of obtaining the nutrition benefits for which you are taking it?