Unfortunately, whenever health benefits from an effective natural substance like Omega 3 are clinically proven, everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon and grab a piece of the pie. The net result has left us with an absolutely enormous amount of competing fish oil supplement brands and each manufacturer would have us believe theirs is the best.
How can health conscious consumers possibly navigate through all the deceptive marketing claims and counter-claims and know when they've arrived at one of the best, purest and safest Omega 3 fish oil products out there?
You either have to read a ton of resources and become highly knowledgeable or have access to an industry insider like me.
Fish Oil Truths Revealed By An Industry Insider!
I worked in an executive position for a quality supplement manufacturer. I know all those little known manufacturing secrets that supplement companies go to such extreme lengths to try and keep hidden from you because they expose weaknesses and limitations in their fish oil products.
Manufacturers and supplement companies have been distorting truths and facts for many years, carefully molding consumers beliefs so as to make people think and believe what they want! All in the name of bottom line profits and greed.
So, to help you avoid being deceived by clever marketing presentations, I'm going to list for you a set of guidelines that will help you to understand the key differences in the multitude of fish oil supplements overcrowding the market. Only the purest and most effective Omega 3 oil will allow you to receive all the fantastic health benefits associated with fish oil.
Your Fish Oil Guidelines Deal With 5 Crucial Areas:
The numerous health benefits of Omega 3 are extremely well documented and most are supported by thousands of credible studies. Whole books have been written on the topic!
Follow this link to read about fantastic fish oil health benefits in more depth and access associated clinical studies.
"Omega 3 fatty acids benefit the hearts of healthy people and those at high risk of, or who have cardiovascular disease."
As you've probably suspected, the answer is most definitely NO!
As you read down the page, you'll see there are important KEY DIFFERENCES in fish oils that determine their level of safety, effectiveness and ultimately how much of these health benefits you actually receive!
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (the 'good fats' - also known as PUFA's). Just like essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids are critical to normal metabolism in the body and are therefore scientifically classified as essential to human health. Your body can't synthesize Omega 3 so you must get it from outside sources:- food and supplements. (There are 49 known essential nutrients).
Think Of Them As Fish Oil Vitamins.
There are long chain omega 3's and there are short chain omega 3's.
The difference is in the number of carbon atoms within.
Your body needs the Long Chain Omegas (containing DHA and EPA fatty acids the specific omega 3's with the most helpful and proven health benefits).
Most oceans, particularly those in the Northern Hemisphere, contain dangerous levels of poisonous:
Some species of fish, particularly fatty fish, store these terrible toxins in their fatty tissue. When you eat them there is a strong risk of those cancer-building toxins storing up in your body!
Mercury is the most significant contaminant found in fish. Mercury occurs naturally in trace amounts in the environment. But industrial pollution can produce mercury that accumulates in lakes, rivers and oceans. Microorganisms in the water create a conversion of mercury into the highly toxic form of METHYLMERCURY.
For example, Mercury exposure via the womb can lead to learning deficits while delaying the mental development of children and causing other neurological problems.
Mercury consumed by a pregnant woman through contaminated fish can cross her placenta to damage the brain of her baby!
All leading health experts now recommend we limit our intake of fatty fish to a maximum of 2 servings per week.
But if you're pregnant it's one fish meal per month! (Note: This recommendation is significantly lower than the FDA's January 2001 recommendation that pregnant women eat 12 ounces a week of any fish (other than shark, swordfish, tilefish or king mackerel which research has confirmed contain dangerous levels of methylmercury).
It seems that most health-enthusiastic people today are aware of this advice and appear to be following it.
So, you won't be surprised then to know that recent studies reveal that 90% of Americans OF ALL AGES don't get anywhere near enough Omega 3 from their diets!
If you're like most people you're taking in way too much Omega 6 and way too little Omega 3.
Omega 6 is another essential fatty acid, the primary sources of which (today) are refined commercial cooking oils; corn, soy, safflower, sunflower and canola.
Your Body Needs A Delicate
Omega 6 to Omega 3
Here's The Problem:
Changes in the typical 'Western' diet over the past 50+ years have seen an over-abundant use of omega 6 rich cooking oils (fried fatty foods, potato chips, biscuits, pastries, snack foods etc),which have led to a current omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of 14:1 - 25:1
A dominance of Omega 6 promotes chronic inflammation, propagation of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and auto-immunity
So called 'Western Degenerative Diseases' have risen in a near perfect linear fashion with the reduction of Omega 3 and over abundance of Omega 6 in the food chain
Because Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids compete with each other to be converted to active metabolites in the body, crucial health benefits can be reached simply by decreasing intake of omega-6 fatty acids and increasing omega-3 fatty acids.
One of the most important benefits of fish oil supplements is their ability to help correct this health-critical ratio.
The US FDA recommended maximums for adults are:
Total daily intake of EPA and DHA not to exceed 3 grams (3000mg) per day with no more than 2 grams per day from a supplement.
Note: The American Heart Association warns about taking in more than 3 grams a day because EPA and DHA make it harder for blood to clot.
Excessive bleeding thus becomes a worry. This bleeding risk is increased if you also take aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen, or herbal supplements such as garlic or ginseng. (1)
THE MOST VALUABLE 'KNOWN' CONTENT OF FISH OIL
DHA is short for Docosahexaenoic Acid.
DHA and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) are the long chain fatty acids I told you about above which are associated with all the fantastic health benefits of fish oil supplements.
DHA constitutes the building blocks of the brain, forming about 8% of the brain by weight.
Note: DHA is a crucial substance in assisting brain development of babies in the womb and in the first 2 years of life. Would-be mothers should begin supplementing with pure Omega 3 oil in the months before conception (see 'purity' section below).
YOUR BRAIN IS A HUGE CONSUMER OF DHA!
Research has begun to pile up which shows that DHA offers more powerful cardiovascular benefits than EPA.
Originally it was thought to be the other way around which is why fish oil supplements always had more EPA than DHA (and most unfortunately still do).
Studies have also shown that DHA is stronger at boosting 'good' HDL cholesterol and at lowering the levels of dangerous triglycerides in the blood. (2)
Plus DHA exerts more powerful benefits for regulating healthy blood pressure than the same amount of EPA can manage.
The Main Reason For Taking Fish Oil Is To Get DHA Into Your Body!
DHA content should be one of the first things you consider when choosing your supplement. This ensures you receive more of the most powerful benefits of fish oil supplements.
If you would like to read a (lengthy) scientific study on the numerous health benefits of DHA please use this link. (NOTE: This link opens a large PDF file which can take a little time to open depending on your internet connection speed).
Most fish oils have a standard 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA composition. Since DHA is more expensive for manufacturers to use than EPA and EPA is easier to concentrate, most manufacturers continue to include only 120 mg of this important component.
This is ABSOLUTELY NOT ENOUGH!
To receive a THERAPEUTIC DOSE, constant with the health benefit results of the clinical studies, look for quality products containing a minimum 250 mg of DHA per capsule. They're out there - but there's not many. (See my recommendation below)
Note: There are some non-fish sources of the short chain omega 3 fatty acids such as flax seed. You may have read that your body can convert these to EPA and (to an even smaller degree) DHA.
This Function Of Fish Oil Is Responsible For The Multitude Of Health Benefits It Provides
Everyone has some degree of inflammation in their bodies so this is a health battle every one of us should be aware of and fight. In the initial stages, when the degree of inflammation is 'mild' there are no symptoms. If not addressed, inflammation will eventually cause mayhem to your health and you probably won't know about it until it's too late! That's why inflammation is often referred to as the 'Silent Killer'.
Excessive inflammation promotes the creation of toxic chemicals which eat away body tissues and act as precursors to major diseases such as:
One of the very dangerous chemicals associated with chronic inflammation is Tumour Necrosis Factor (TNF). TNF actively promotes the degeneration of your brain and nerves!
Inflammation, in a simplest sense, promotes cellular aging and this unfortunately has a cruelly destructive effect on your outer appearance. Inflammation degrades collagen fibers and aging skin cells produce excess amounts of free radicals which, as you're no doubt aware, lead to WRINKLES!
Excessive and chronic inflammation is a result of accumulating toxicity. Our lavish 21st century lifestyles, in which chemical and toxin exposures are now impossible to avoid, have resulted in unprecedented toxicity levels in humans. In fact recent research by the Environmental Working Group has confirmed that
TOXICITY NOW BEGINS IN THE WOMB!
"At least 90% of all Chronic Diseases can be attributed to environmental pollution. Heavy metals were reported to be the major source for the production of free radicals as well as undermining the internal environments and body chemistry.
Heavy metals can very well reduce the efficacy of medical treatments by up to 60%. There is little hope for antioxidants and mineral supplements, if the body is burdened with heavy metals."
- World Health Organization (WHO)
Addressing inflammation in your body is one of the most crucial things you can do for your health.
The anti inflammatory ability of Omega 3 Fish Oil therefore becomes the most important of its' medicinal properties.
So, when it comes to the anti inflammatory properties of fish oil:
Your Purchasing Guideline Is To Focus Only On Brands Offering The Highest Levels Of Anti-Inflammatory Abilities!
There are some elite fish oils out there offering more than DOUBLE THE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES of 'normal' and even 'concentrated' fish oils.
The best and fastest place to research the anti-inflammatory abilities of a particular brand of oil is on the supplement company's website. The companies offering the strongest benefits of fish oil supplements make their products' differentiation points very clear. The information will be prominently displayed on their site.
For example, look for quantitative values/information on 'Inflammation Inhibitation Properties'.
Of course, if there's no definitive and detailed information regarding anti-inflammatory activity/levels listed then please take that as a BIG RED FLAG - buyer beware! If an oil is has superior anti-inflammatory properties the information WILL BE THERE and IMPOSSIBLE TO MISS!
NATURAL TRIGLYCERIDE & ETHYL ESTER
You may not have heard these terms before. They refer to the two
NATURAL FORMS OF FISH OIL. It's critical that you select a fish oil brand which has been manufactured in one or both of these NATURAL FORMS.
NATURE KNOWS BEST!
BEWARE: Many oils are SYNTHETIC TRIGLYCERIDE
yet promote themselves as natural!
The synthetic triglyceride form negatively effects the bio-availability of the oil meaning less of those amazing health boosting nutrients in the oil are absorbed by your body.
The More Natural The Molecular Structure Of The Oil The Better!
If you were to grab a fish, squeeze it and extract some oil out of it, this oil would be in the natural triglyceride' form. The problem however, as explained above, is the high levels of contaminants in the oil (mercury, dioxins, PCB's etc). So, the place where the fish is caught becomes a hugely defining characteristic of the oil in terms of purity and safety.
Esterified oil (Ethyl Ester form) comes from concentrating natural triglyceride oil while undergoing an expensive process of MOLECULAR DISTILLATION to remove impurities.
"It's not uncommon to double or even triple the omega 3 content using this concentration process"
Fish Oil Purity Is Assessed By Measuring The Levels Of Heavy Metals, PCBs And Dioxins
In The Oil
You've read above about the serious contamination threat of eating fatty fish to get your quota of omega 3 fatty acids. This threat naturally extends to fish oil supplements (and any toxic contaminants they contain will endanger your health and absolutely negate the benefits of fish oil supplements).
So the location of the where the fish are caught is very important!
Remember, that rules out most of the waters in the Northern Hemisphere!
The type of fish used is also extremely important - so here's another of your shopping guideline in your hunt for a completely pure and safe fish oil:
Cold deep water fish from pristine unpolluted waters
Did you know that most fish oil products are a mixture of cheap oil products and are transported long distances from third world countries in less than ideal conditions!
They do not come from the same country where they were encapsulated and due to the long transport times in tankers, artificial (and undesirable) additives must be added to stop the oil from turning rancid.
"Some Mass Produced Fish Oils Have Been Found To Be Rancid Or Oxidized"
The only 'good' additive that should be there is vitamin E (in addition to the natural vitamin E component found in Omega 3) to prevent depletion of internal vitamin E levels that can occur with ingestion of supplemental fish oil. Vitamin E is often listed as 'Tocopherols'. A broad spectrum Natural Vitamin E oil (listed as 'mixed' tocopherols) is commonly used.
The world's best fish oil manufacturers make it clear on their websites all the details of the fish they use and where they were caught. If these details are missing you should view that as a big red flag!
Freshness Or Free Radicals?
The benefits of fish oil supplements are extensively negated if the oil is not COMPLETELY FRESH.
Oxidized Fish Oil Is Full Of
I mentioned above the problem of rancidity and oxidation because many fish oils are transported long distances. Freshness, however is not just about time but rather is related to how the fish has been handled and looked after since harvesting. For example, a well handled two-day old fish can be even fresher than a one-day old fish!
SIGHT & SMELL:
An important purchasing guideline is to always take a look at the suppliers 'CERTIFICATE OF ANALYSIS' (COA).
The key here is that OXIDATION LEVELS SHOULD BE AS LOW AS POSSIBLE.
Freshness Is Measured By Oxidation!
So, in considering freshness of fish oil, what you need to consider on a Certificate of Analysis is how low is the TOTAL OXIDATION (TOTOX) VALUE - of which there are two components:
Some companies in Europe do not publish their Anisidine values and although the peroxide values may be reasonable, the overall TOTOX value can be very high.
One of the deceptive tricks of the trade used by some companies is to test only for the peroxide value.
They do this 'after' the oil has been encapsulated and 'after' a certain period of time. This is because they know peroxide values in a soft gel capsule drop over time BUT that anisidine values go up, thereby forcing the TOTOX value up. Testing only for Peroxide Value gets around this problem and then by waiting for the Peroxide value to fall they are able to create an artificially low TOTOX Value making their oil appear far better than it really is!
Don't be fooled be the tricky 'N/A' (not applicable) for Anisidine Value!
Here's an example of a COA for fish oil, dated MARCH, 2011. It comes from the 'Xtend-Life' Company in New Zealand whose exceptional fish oil I have used since 2000. The benefits of fish oil supplements from Xtend-Life are exceptionally high due due to a number of key factors (see below) including their low TOTOX score. Xtend-Life's own TOTOX specifications are set below industry standards which you can see from the table just under the COA below.
Just as freshly bought fish should have no fishy odors, fresh fish oils should also have no rancid odors nor distinct scents such as lemon/lime or any other unnatural fragrance.
Another trick of the trade is to disguise a lack of freshness with artificial fragrance/flavoring in an attempt to hide all traces of oxidation.
Cut Open A Capsule And Give It The 'Smell Test'
'Repeating' (burping / belching with an foul fishy after-taste) is an extremely common problem CAUSED BY HIGH LEVELS OF OXIDIZATION.
So, if you're experiencing repeating (and your digestive system is not compromised by any illness/disorder) the obvious answer is usually that your fish oil is highly oxidized. The best supplement companies use professional product management and control to avoid this problem. This extends right back to how the fish are handled on board from the moment they are caught.
Fish oils are far from all equal and therefore the benefits you expect from them vary tremendously
A good way to think about the various brands of fish oils is to think of them like cars. For example, there's a huge difference in quality between a Mercedes Benz and a much cheaper mass produced one.
If you want your health to be nurtured and protected with STRONGER & MORE EFFECTIVE health-boosting benefits of fish oil supplements, just be sure to follow these purchasing guidelines.
The fish Oil I use is manufactured by the Xtend-Life Company all the way down in New Zealand.
I've been using Xtend-Life Fish Oil for a long time now - since 2000.
There are 3 unique fish oil products sold by Xtend-Life and as per my car analogy above, these oils are the Mercedes Benz' of fish oils. They meet every single one of the criteria detailed on this page.
I originally began using Xtend-Life's regular 'Omega 3/DHA' oil but switched to their new 'Premium' Oil in 2009 because it contains additional specialty ingredients which target my skin.
There has been a world-wide trend since 2009 which has seen fish oils becoming more 'functional' with the inclusion of extra ingredients which have specific medicinal properties over and above those of regular fish oil.
Omega 3 / DHA 'PREMIUM' VERSION (The Version I use)
Omega 3 / DHA 'REGULAR' VERSION
Omega 3 / 'QH ULTRA' VERSION
These links will take you to the product pages on the Xtend-Life website where you can read and learn more about these EXTRAORDINARY fish oils. Take a look at the various graphs which show the fantastic results obtained in clinical studies as well as the info about their specifications for detection of heavy metals, PCB's and dioxins (A crucial subject which all fish oil consumers should be aware of!)
One of the (numerous) reasons I use Xtend-Life fish oil is that their specification standards are much more stringent than any other supplement company. The various specifications are all set at the lowest limits of detection for most laboratory analytical equipment and most of them are significantly lower than the normal international standard.
There's a ton of easy to understand information on the website, quite a lot of which you won't find on other supplement company websites, simply because Xtend-Life has nothing to hide - a true rarity in the supplement industry.
You'll also find a straight forward 'No Risk Guarantee' (If you're not 100% happy just send the product back within six months of the purchase for a full refund or product replacement - whichever you prefer). Refreshingly, there are NO crazy conditions attached to the Xtend-Life guarantee policy (a number of the huge multinational supplement companies almost have you jumping through hoops in order to use their money back guarantees!)
The 'Premium' oil formula is a WORLD-FIRST. The researchers only achieved this breakthrough mid way through 2009. This new 'Premium' version includes an additional 2 new ingredients (Lycopene and Astaxanthin) which together can unlock and 'de-age' your skin from the inside out!
These are potent, highly effective (and expensive) ingredients which have been PROVEN to help address the main causes of premature aging to the skin - BEAUTY FROM WITHIN!
You're no doubt aware that regular Omega 3 is good for your skin (hair and nails) but it doesn't go far enough when it comes to reversing the effects of photo-aging and protecting the skin from sun damage.
Incredibly, this 'Premium' version oil is only about three dollars dearer than Xtend-Life's regular Omega 3 / DHA oil. It is amazingly AFFORDABLE considering the EXCEPTIONAL formula and efficacy (less than $20 for a months supply!) I truly believe it to be a
ONE OF A KIND PRODUCT.
In considering all the factors that holistically determine the efficacy and effectiveness of fish oil (DHA Content, Anti-Inflammatory Activity, Purity, Freshness, Bio-availability) there isn't a more superior Omega 3 fish oil available at this time.