Fish oil is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These fatty acids have numerous health-promoting effects including: Protecting blood vessels and the formation of clots; lowering high triglyceride levels; reducing systemic inflammation; and even improving mental wellbeing.
Capturing the health benefits of fish oil, however, isn’t quite as simple as just popping a couple pills from your local grocery store. Fish oil types can vary substantially in their quality and in their beneficial health effects. When deciding which oil to purchase, one should consider quality, purity, bioavailability, and cost.
Currently there are three different types of fish oil available for purchase: Natural triglyceride oil, ethyl ester oil, and re-esterified triglyceride oil.
This form of fish oil is the closest of the three to eating real fish and is formed by extracting the natural oils from fatty fish. The greatest benefit of this form is its bioavailability. Even though it contains lower overall levels of fatty acids DHA and EPA when compared to other oils, these critical fatty acids are more easily absorbed by the body when compared to the ethyl ester form. One particular concern with the natural form is the risk that it may contain impurities and contaminants like heavy metals. These contaminants may contribute to digestive upset and, if consumed in excess, may even have a toxic effect on the body. Usually though, if you stick to a pharmaceutical grade fish oil, you won’t have this issue!
This form of fish oil is created by concentrating and then removing impurities from natural oils through a process that changes the molecular structure of the substance. While the ethyl ester form contains fewer contaminants and has higher levels of DHA and EPA when compared to the natural form, it is not as easily absorbed by the body. This reduced rate of absorption is most likely due to the fact that bile salts and pancreatic enzymes must first break down the structure of the substance before it can be absorbed. This means you may have to take even more to notice the effects, or you may not notice any changes.
This form of fish oil is created by taking the process to create ethyl ester oil just a step further. After concentrating and distilling natural fish oil, the ethyl ester form is then converted back into a triglyceride form. This process allows the oil to hold a form that is more easily absorbed and further concentrates the amount of EPA and DHA when compared to the natural triglyceride form. This results in a bioavailable product free from contaminants. Most fish oils on the market are not offered in this form since the additional processing adds greatly to its cost of production.
All three forms have both benefits and drawbacks related to quality, purity, absorption, and cost. When selecting a fish oil, individuals should consider which factors they feel are most important and then use that information to guide their purchases. Do you know what type of fish oil you currently use? Let us know below!
Dr. Jenna Zigler