Omega 3 Fish Oils - How do you really select the best?

If you are interested in preserving your health naturally, then I am sure that I don’t have to tell you about the importance of ensuring that omega-3 fish oils are part of your supplement regime.

The benefits of essential fatty acids found in fish oil have been extensively promoted by not only companies in the industry but also the government and interested organizations such as the heart foundation, as well as many others.

Usually when the benefits of fish oils are discussed they are generally focused around two components in omega-3, namely DHA (Docosapentaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). Up until recently most the research was focused on EPA, probably because it was easier to concentrate in fish oils as well as being cheaper.

However, over recent years more research has revolved around DHA and it is now generally accepted that this is the most valuable component of omega-3. It is the essential fatty acid that is found in the brain and there is no disagreement that it is the most important nutrient that an unborn child can have in assisting with their brain development.

An additional benefit of DHA is that it is possible for the body to change it to EPA - IF the body needs it. It just simply has to drop-off part of its molecule; in this case, two double carbon bonds. DHA has 22 double carbon bonds whereas EPA only has 20 double carbon bonds.

To use an analogy, it is a bit like being able to roll a stone downhill but not uphill. By the way, in case you were not aware of it, the omega-3 that is found in flaxseed oil is called ALA (alpha linolenic acid) and this fatty acid only has 18 carbon bonds which is almost impossible for the body to manufacture DHA from. If you would like to learn more about this please click here.

Anyway, the important thing to remember is that DHA is the most crucial identifiable part of fish oil. I say ‘identifiable’ because there is also an ‘x-factor’ in fish oil which scientists have not yet been able to identify. I’ll come back to that again later.

In the meantime let’s reflect on WHY omega-3 fish oil has so many health benefits to those people who use it.

Of course, as with any natural remedy there are different opinions and theories. Nonetheless, there is one area of consensus amongst scientists, doctors and health professionals about how the prime benefits of fish oil come about.

What is that?

In a word: INFLAMMATION

As you would expect, there is disagreement both with health professionals and the industry about how omega-3 fish oil helps deal with inflammation. Some say it is because of the EPA content while others say it is because of the EPA. HOWEVER they are all wrong and we have the proof.

Before I provide this proof, let me quickly give you a bit more background on fish oil itself. Whereas most people understandably think of fish oil as ‘fish oil’ there are actually three types - all with significant differences!

1. Natural fish oil comes in a triglyceride form. This is the oil that you get when you ‘squeeze’ the fish and extract the natural oil from it. The drawback from this particular form of fish oil is that it usually has low omega-3 content because it’s not concentrated and generally has high levels of contaminants such as heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins etc, depending upon where it is sourced from.

2. Ester fish oil occurs when you take natural triglyceride oil and concentrate it whilst molecularly distilling the oil to eliminate purities. The ester form is still in a semi-natural state because it is the result of a process that naturally occurs in the body to allow for bioavailability (readily absorbed). It’s not uncommon to double or even triple the omega-3 content using this ester process. This is the oil that we have used exclusively for the last seven years or so.

3. Synthetic triglyceride fish oil is another form of fish oil that is very common and is promoted as being natural - but, it is not. Why not? Well it is concentrated oil which has been converted to an ester as explained above, but then for marketing purposes it has been put through another process to make it a triglyceride so it could be argued that it is natural. However, it is NOT a natural triglyceride but rather a synthetic one and part of it is not bio-available to your body. This is because the positions of the carbon bonds have been changed which alters the structure of the molecule. To what extent this has on the efficacy of the fish oil is not known, but there is no doubt that there is a negative effect.

OK, back to the inflammation issue. Which form has the best anti-inflammatory properties? The answer is simple - NONE!

I will soon come back to this answer as it gets more interesting. For now, let me relate a short story to you.

As long time readers of this blog will know, we are continually searching for more effective products. Every product that we manufacture comes under constant scrutiny. Our Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil is also subject to that same scrutiny.

Last year we received some non-conclusive information which indicated that some of the benefits of fish oil were possibly lost in the process of concentrating and molecularly distilling fish oil. It seemed that parts of the fish oil that are deemed necessary were discarded in the concentration process and contained an ‘x-factor’ which was also lost.

If this was indeed the case then it posed a double dilemma!

1. How could we get natural oil which did not have the ‘x-factor’ removed and yet was as pure as molecularly distilled fish oil?

2. How could we get the levels of omega-3 high enough to at least match our current concentrated Omega 3 DHA Esters?

Our researchers came up with a solution for the second dilemma. If we combined a highly concentrated fish oil with a natural oil, we could then achieve an omega-3 content with DHA levels as high as those currently found in our existing Hoki oil.

That left the problem of solving dilemma one, which had to be Hoki oil as we have reason to believe that there are properties in that oil which are unique to the species. Besides it had to be New Zealand fish oil.

Then, almost like a miracle the problem was solved!

We had been approached by one of New Zealand’s biggest fishing companies who revealed to us that they had decided to get into the fish oil business and produce their own brand of fish oil. As a result of this decision, they had allocated a number of their boats to target Hoki fish in the Southern Ocean off New Zealand – widely considered to be some of the most pristine waters in the world.

But, instead of the fish being processed onboard, where the oil would usually be an industrial by-product of fish meal - as 99.9% of the world’s fish oil currently is - this oil was processed under food conditions specifically for human consumption. It was packed into special ‘Spacekraft’ containers under a nitrogen blanket and maintained at two degrees Celsius.

Fortuitously for us, when the global economic situation started to bite, the fishing company made a board decision to revert back to their core business and not continue with developing their own brand of fish oil. This left them with an entire season’s catch of exceptionally pure natural Hoki oil.

The bottom line is that we had the oil tested by two independent labs (one being that of the government) for purity. The results were remarkable to say the least. The purity was BETTER than any other fish oil that we know of, even though it was in its natural state.

In addition, the oxidation levels (which are quite high in most oils) were lower than anything we had ever seen, due to the way it was processed. It was so fresh that there was no odour and yet there had been no additive.

So, we purchased the entire batch and in addition, came to an agreement to have more oil sourced and processed the same way.

The next step…

Was to find out what would happen if we added this natural Hoki oil to a super purified concentrated tuna oil. Would it improve the overall efficacy of the oil? Would the ‘x-factor’ which we believed was in the natural Hoki oil do something that could be measured?

In other words, would it have any impact on inflammation levels?

To find out, we commissioned Trinity Bioactives - which is part of the Wellington School of Medicine in New Zealand - to conduct a clinical study and find out what the blend of the natural Hoki oil and concentrated tuna oil could achieve with regards to inflammation.

The results were astounding. We had reason to believe that the blend would be better than ‘normal’ fish oil or even concentrated oil, but we did not expect the following results as indicated in Figure 1 below:

In summary:

The new Xtend-Life Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil had two and a half times better anti-inflammatory properties than a ‘normal’ fish oil, and DOUBLE the anti-inflammatory properties of highly concentrated oil with 85% omega-3.

*Aspirin was used as a control and it had an inflammation inhibition percentage of 38.6%. The Xtend-Life Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil blend was just as good as aspirin with an inflammation inhibition percentage of 38.1%. The concentrated tuna oil and normal fish oil scored 20.6% and 14% respectively. We cannot chart aspirin’s percentages as direct comparisons to the fish oils as the drug is dose-related.

Figure 1:

chart_1.jpg

The ‘x-factor’

It is clear that the missing ‘x-factor’ is creating a synergistic effect between the natural triglyceride oil and the concentrated fish oil. This is one of these rare situations in which we are able to get the best of both worlds.

What is this ‘x-factor’? The truth is that we don’t really know! We do nevertheless have our own theories. There seems to be something in the natural Hoki oil that synergizes perfectly when combined with the concentrated tuna oil. Even though the total amount of omega-3 in the blend is lower than the concentrate, the anti-inflammatory properties have actually doubled!

For now, the ‘x-factor’ has to remain one of the mysteries of nature. I say “nature” because it is something in the natural component of the Hoki oil that is giving these benefits.

OK, so we have evidence that the efficacy of fish oil can be improved by producing the special blend as we have - but, you may be thinking about what else is important when it comes to selecting what fish oil to consume.

Are there other important issues to consider other than efficacy?

Indeed there is! They are:

  • Purity
  • Freshness

Let me give you some guidance as to how you can assess these two important components.

Purity

Purity is assessed by measuring the levels of heavy metals, PCB’s and dioxins in the fish oil.

At the moment there are four standards that are used internationally. These are indicated in the below table.

You will note that we at Xtend-Life have set own specification standards which are much more stringent than anyone else’s. They are all set at the lowest limits of detection for most laboratory analytical equipment. You will notice that most of them are significantly lower than the normal international standard.

The levels of purity are so great with our new Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil that even at lower levels, NO contaminants are detected. It is important though to be aware that it would be dishonest to claim that NO contaminants are present at all. There may be some minute amounts but they are simply not detected because they are so low.

This is because heavy metals and contaminants are found in literally every conceivable food item and tissue on the planet. Regardless of how minute the quantities are - heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead and arsenic must be measured in every batch of fish oil.

Figure 2:

Component

Xtend-Life Specifications

International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS)

Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)

European Pharmacopoeia

Norwegian Medicinal Standard

Arsenic (ppb)

100

100

100

100

100

Cadmium (ppb)

10

100

100

100

100

Mercury (ppb)

10

100

100

100

100

Lead (ppb)

50

100

100

100

100

Total PCBs (ppb)

5

45

90

N/A

N/A

Total Dioxins &

Furans (ppt)

0.5

1*

2

2

2

Notes:
>> N/A means ‘Not Available’
>> IFOS although included in the table is not a recognized entity. It is a private organization and it is claimed by some ‘observers’ that it was established for the benefit of a few marketers of fish oil.

Freshness

When an oil smells fishy it indicates that it is oxidised which is the beginning of rancidity. Some companies try to mask this by adding flavouring or, even worse, enteric-coating the fish oil. If you are in doubt about the freshness of your fish oil, cut open a soft gel and put it to the smell test. If it is fresh it should only have a faint oceanic aroma. Try it with our Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil and you will see what I mean.

An added benefit is that if the fish oil product is fresh, the chance of you experiencing ‘repeating’ (or ‘burping’) is highly unlikely. We are so confident about our Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil that if you do experience some ‘repeating’ and you don’t have any digestive conditions or ailments, simply return the partially opened bottle with its contents and we’ll give you a full refund.

Ask and you will receive (at least from reputable suppliers)

A Certificate of Analysis (COA) should always be available if requested for the batch of fish oil that you are using. If you are concerned about freshness, ask for the Anisidine and TOTOX values as well as the Peroxide values. Peroxide values on their own can be quite misleading and do not give a true indication of freshness. Figure 3 below not only shows how fresh our Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil really is, it should also give you a clearer picture of what you need to look out for before choosing your preferred fish oil supplement.

Figure 3:

Component

Xtend-Life Specifications

International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS)

Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)

European Pharmacopoeia

Norwegian Medicinal Standard

Peroxide Value

(mEq/kg)

2.5

3.75

5

10

10

Anisidine Value

12

15

20

N/A

N/A

Total Oxidation

(TOTOX)

17

19.5

26

N/A

N/A

Notes:
>> N/A means ‘Not Available’
>> IFOS although included in the table is not a recognized entity. It is a private organization and it is claimed by some ‘observers’ that it was established for the benefit of a few marketers of fish oil.

Lastly

In these economic uncertain times it is more important than ever to maintain your health so you can better face the challenges ahead. I understand as well as the next person how important it is to spend your resources wisely. I am truly excited about our new Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil and although it costs us more to produce than the previous product, we anticipate greater sales which I hope will offset our increased costs.

I could easily go on and on about how our new Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil provides much greater value for money than any other oil I have ever seen but, most of our customers already know that anyway. What is important is that you will be getting not only high levels of omega-3 and DHA, but also the ‘x-factor’ which will translate into so many additional health benefits.

You will be getting an extremely pure, extremely potent and extremely fresh product that is 100% natural and safe.

In good health,

Warren Matthews of Xtend-Life

Mountain Rose Herbs is where we recommend you purchase all of your organic, wild crafted bulk herbs, spices, teas and pure,organic essential oils!

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