This post was published in partnership with Pharmaca
If you’re interested in taking fish oil, you may have noticed how many different types there are to choose from. It’s important to know that there is a huge variety in the quality of different fish oils—such as purity, freshness, potency and absorbability—that can affect their therapeutic benefits. Consider the form, components, and source of your fish oil in order to find the one that’s right for you.
Natural triglyceride oil This form is what you get when you “squeeze” the whole fish and extract the natural oil from it. It’s the closest to eating fish in its natural form, and is highly bioavailable. EPA and DHA concentrations are very low.
Ethyl ester oil Occurs when natural triglyceride oil is concentrated and molecularly distilled to remove impurities. The ester form is still in a semi-natural state because it is the result of a process that naturally occurs in the body. The advantage to this form is that it can offer double or triple the levels of EPA and DHA than the natural triglyceride form.
Synthetic triglyceride oil This form occurs when natural triglycerides are converted to ethyl esters for concentration (see above), but then re-converted into synthetic triglycerides. The original position of the triglyceride’s carbon bonds change and the molecule’s overall structure is altered, which impacts the bioavailability of the oil. The benefits to synthetic triglycerides is high bioavailability and therapeutic concentrations of EPA and DHA.
EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
Anchovy, Sardines, Mackerel Fish oil supplements are predominantly produced from sardines, mackerel and anchovies—species that are currently in abundant supply, fished well below mandated limits and considered ideal for sustainability, given their short reproductive cycles. Fish oil from these sources generally provide a higher concentration of omega-3 than krill oil.
Cod Liver Cod liver oil is extracted from cod livers (rather than the flesh of the fish), and is generally richer in DHA than fish oils (but lower in EPA). Cod liver oil also generally contains some vitamins A and D. There is some concern, however, that the high levels of vitamin A can inhibit the body’s absorption of vitamin D.
Salmon A source of omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin, wild salmon oil has a naturally occurring ratio of EPA to DHA. Wild salmon may also be a better environmental choice because the oil is extracted from already harvested salmon, using fish parts that would otherwise be wasted, thereby conserving existing stocks.
Krill Research has shown that the body better utilizes omega-3s from krill oil because they are bound to phospholipids, which is unique among marine species. And krill oil has been shown to increase omega-3 levels in humans faster and more efficiently than other marine sources.