Of all the nutritional supplements that have caught on in the international market, perhaps none is more successful than fish oil. In fact, in the US alone, consumers spend over $1 billion annually on over-the-counter fish oil supplements, motivated by the promise of improved heart health and brain function. But are they really getting what they’re paying for?
The simple answer is: probably not.
Omega 3's in Fish Oil
Fish oils are a popular source of omega-3s, or “good fat.” They are an important fatty acid group that can’t be produced by the body; instead, we get them from our diets. Depending on the molecular type, omega-3s can be found in walnuts, canola oil, and flax seeds; but the most popular and well known source is fatty fish, such as salmon or sardines. Omega-3s are important agents in brain function and controlling inflammation, while deficiencies have been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, cancers, and arthritis.
For these reasons, fish oil has become a popular dietary supplement, marketed as an easy way to boost heart health and sharpen mental agility. There are two primary kinds of fish oils on the market, a triglyceride form (TG) and an ethyl-ester form (EE), with EE acting as the industry standard in the pharmaceutical manufacturing of fish oil. Food companies have also been quick to cash in, adding it to products including cereal, juice, and even milk.
Fish oils are very susceptible to lipid peroxidation, the process whereby free radicals attack these unsaturated fatty acids bound to a lipid cell membrane, causing marked alterations in normal biological effects such as altered cell signaling, protein and DNA damage and toxicity to the cell itself. Polyunsaturated fats are extremely prone to oxidative degradation, making fish oil one of the most labile supplements sold to consumers. It is estimated that roughly 80% of fish oils exceed voluntary limits for at least one measure of oxidation with many commercial brands exceeding the limits for more than one measure of oxidation.
If you have been following BodyBio for some time, we are sure that you have come to understand how detrimental lipid peroxides are to your cellular health.
Is your fish oil supplement supporting your health? Or is your “health boosting” supplement actually sabotaging your cellular health?
Problems with Extraction Methods
Diagnosing the problem is complicated. First, our bodies absorb naturally sourced omega-3s in different ways, involving different digestive and biochemical processes. Second, the process of extracting pure fish oil is exactly that: a process. Unlike squeezing the juice from an orange, acquiring oil from fish involves separating the omega-3s--namely, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)--from other proteins, fats, and heavy metals (like mercury). Filtering out these substances is technically difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.
Most companies resort to molecular distillation to extract fish oils: an oxidized process that affects oil acidity, decreases the product’s shelf life, and is less effective in eliminating the volatile compounds found in the raw material. This process removes impurities, (heavy metals, dioxins, impurities, etc.) saturated fats, and other undesirable organic compounds. This process always requires the use of heat during processing to turn the raw materials into oil and remove impurities.
Wet pressing is a commonly used method to extract the fish oil from fish. This process involves drastic temperature and pressure conditions used for protein coagulation and subsequent oil release. This process modifies the polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) present, due to degradation reactions such as hydrolysis and oxidation.
Supercritical Fluid Technology.
Though more expensive to produce upfront, this method (called supercritical fluid extraction) converts DHA and EPA into smaller molecules to increase the concentration of each capsule. This advanced technology is capable of purifying highly sensitive Omega-3’s without the use of excessive heat, chemical solvents (green technology) or oxygen.
Unlike some other extraction methods, the technology we use to create BodyBio Fish Oil has no chemical solvents, water, sugar, saturated fatty acids, cholesterol or proteins found in the finished oil. As a result, our Fish Oil product offers nearly three times the amount of DHA and EPA compared to most fish oils on the market, which contain 30% or less.
It is worth noting that while omega-3s are an important part of our diets and cellular health, studies are mixed as to whether fish oil supplements work to actively prevent or lower risk factors for heart disease. There is also evidence to suggest that introducing a surplus of omega-3s is into the diet--whether from foods or supplements--is in fact detrimental. If you feel that your diet may be omega-3 deficient, seek advice from a medical professional or dietician on whether a fish oil product could improve your health and wellness.