Differentiating Fish Oils Part 2: What’s in your Fish Oil?

So, now that you understand the different forms that fish oils come in, it would be helpful to know what you’re putting in your mouth when you swallow a fish oil soft gel.  To do this, you have to develop the skill of label-reading.  At first blush this may seem to be a simple task, one not worthy of a blog, but in truth deciphering labels can at times be anything but easy.  I am not suggesting that companies intentionally mislead consumers with marketing and catchy phraseology, but at times they certainly don’t go out of their way to clarify what’s being sold to you.  For instance, what does it mean when a label catches your attention with the bold statement, “1,000 mg of fish oil”? Are you to be comforted knowing that taking just one of these pills meets the American Heart Association’s recommendation for heart patients to take 1,000 mg of the essential omega-3s EPA+DHA daily? More often than not, the answer is NO.  That’s because fish oil does not equal EPA+DHA.  And it’s EPA+DHA that you’re after.  EPA and DHA are the active and beneficial ingredients in fish oil, not the other fats (which include saturated fats as well).  To be sure you are getting what you want and deserve, follow these few steps:

  1. Pay attention to only the “Supplement Facts
  2. Read the “Serving size” – how many soft gels does it take to get one serving? Mark that # down.
  3. Read the “Amount per serving” – how much EPA is there, and how much DHA is there in a single serving? Add the amounts of EPA + DHA per single serving. Write that # down. Ignore “other omega-3s’ or “Total omega-3s”
  4. Let’s say your goal is to get 1,000 mg daily of DHA+EPA. Take “1,000” and divide it by the number you got in step 3. For instance, if the number you arrived at is “500 mg”, then 1,000/500 is 2.  You must take 2 servings to get your 1,000 mg of DHA+EPA daily.
  5. But you must be sure how many soft gels make up a single serving! So, now multiply the answer you got in step 4 by the # you got in step 2. For our current example, this will give you the # of pills needed to get your 1,000 mg of DHA+EPA daily. As the serving size can be 1, 2 or even 3 pills, in the case we’ve constructed you might need to take 2, 4, or even six pills to get what you want! That is why this process is so important.

Remember, the more DHA+EPA there is per gram of fish oil, the more concentrated and pure the oil is.  The more pure the oil, the fewer unnecessary fats you are consuming.  Try to get the purest oils. Extra fat gives you extra and unnecessary calories, something most of us do not need these days.

I hope this has been clear and helpful for you. The next blog, Differentiating Fish Oils Part 3, will discuss the different ways our bodies utilize DHA and EPA.

Learn more about the world’s most potent omega-3 fish oil supplement at vitalremedymd.com

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Differentiating Fish Oils: Part 1, The Form of the Oil

This series will succinctly describe various aspects of the omega-3 fish oils that cause doctors and their patients a great deal of confusion and consternation. We will begin with the form of the oil.

Fish oils come in four forms: Ethyl Ester (EE), Triglyceride (TG), Phospholipid (PL), and Free Fatty Acid (FFA). Most fish oils (including the prescription, Lovaza) come in the EE form.  In fact, the largest and most profound scientific studies to date have used EE omega-3s.  In nature, omega-3s are found in the TG and PL forms.  The problem is that in order for manufacturers to develop pills with highly concentrated important omega-3s, EPA and DHA (also known as the active ingredients in fish), they must first convert the omega-3s to the EE form.  Then these health-promoting omega-3s can be highly concentrated, and depending upon one’s preference, either EPA or DHA can be emphasized (to be discussed in a future blog). Some manufacturers chose to convert the oils back to the TG form (a process that requires the oils to be subjected to high temperatures for long periods of time – not good for the oils in some experts’ opinions).  Others convert the oils into the FFA form to try to enhance absorption.  The Krill oil producers leave the oil in its original PL form with the drawback being that only very small amounts of the key ingredients EPA and DHA can be delivered in each pill.  The Krill and TG contention is that these forms of omega-3s are more “natural” and thus better.  The reality is, however, that all the oils must be changed in our gut to FFA in order to be absorbed.  Thus, they are no longer PL, TG, or EE when they’re absorbed by our bodies.  They are all FFAs. Studies to date have shown this conversion to be an efficient process and up to 95% absorption can be expected when any of the forms are taken with food. In fact, the lion’s share of the current literature indicates that the form of the oil is probably not nearly as important as companies would like you to believe. The most important issue is how much EPA and DHA you are receiving when you swallow a pill or eat a fish.  That is what you need to look for (also the subject of another blog).

Learn more about the world’s most potent omega-3 fish oil supplement at vitalremedymd.com

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