If you have ever sprained an ankle, been stung by a bee, or got your finger stuck in a door slammed shut, you know about the power of inflammation to cause tissue destruction. Pain, redness, swelling and loss of function are the body's powerful tools to restart tissue growth after physical injury, allergy, or exposure to toxins. One of the best ways to keep the process of inflammation from going out of control is to take the best fish oil supplements.
What you need to know about how to choose fish oil supplements does not take long to master, but makes a big difference in the benefits you get from your daily supplement. Here are - simple principles that help you spend your money wisely on the best fish oil supplements.
- Fish oil has to be fresh.
- Fish oil has to be pure.
- Fish oil should be allowed to stay in its natural form.
If you happen to live in Iceland or Norway, it's really easy to get fresh fish oil. So many Icelanders and Norwegians start their day with a shot glass filled with lemon- or cherry-flavored cod liver oil that stores don't keep their inventory very long. You can easily get fresh fish oil that was in a fish out swimming in the sea just a few days before you take it. But if you live in other parts of the world, you'll probably get your fish oil in capsules.
Fresh fish oil is extracted from fresh fish. Some companies, like Xtend Life, hire their own inspectors to use eyes and noses to make sure fish is fresh before it is used for extracting the oil. Some companies don't.
The companies that don't take care to start with fresh fish to make fresh fish oil often add vitamin E as a preservative. There is nothing inherently wrong with adding vitamin E to fish oil, except when vitamin E is added to a poor quality fish oil, its antioxidant power is spent cleaning up the peroxides generated by the decaying oil, not cleaning up your body's enzyme systems.
In particular, some fish oil companies use vitamin E to pass a quality test that measures the total of peroxides and another chemical called anisidine generated by fish oil decaying in capsules. If the peroxides go down, they can let more anisidine into their products and still pass international quality standards.
Peroxides are not especially harmful if you swallow them, but anisidine can cause serious stomach upset. Vitamin E masks the anisidine from inspectors, but not from your digestive tract. A good sign a manufacturer is confident in the freshness of its fish oil is the use of natural preservatives like rosemary oil instead of vitamin E.
It is a reality of modern life that the oceans are polluted. Heavy metals, plasticizers, and byproducts of the petrochemical industry find their way into even the most pristine ocean waters. You simply don't want to be consuming mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and polychlorinated biphenyls from the sea along with your fish oil.
Many fish oil manufacturers remove these toxins with a process known as molecular distillation. It sounds like a sure way to enhance the quality of fish oil, but sometimes it isn't.
That's because many manufacturers do their molecular distillation with a solvent known as hexane. First the fish is steamed to release the oil from the flesh. (The remaining fish is then used to make animal feeds.) Next the oil is mixed with hexane at room temperature. In this step, you have a mixture of the fish oil that will go into your fish oil capsules along with a toxic solvent.
Then the mixture of fish oil and hexane is heated to about 40° C (104° F) to let the hexane evaporate away into a hood where it is captured for recycling (or at least one hopes). The hexane grabs the toxic molecules and leaves purified fish oil behind.
The problem comes with the second batch. Hexane is reused to save on chemical costs. This hexane carries extra contamination into the fish oil with the expectation that the toxins from the earlier batches will be evaporated along with the toxins from the current batch.
Usually the process works well enough that nobody gets really sick from taking the product, but is this something you really want to put in your body? Some companies, such as Xtend Life and LEF, use processes that don't involve hexane.
Another of the chemical tricks fish oil manufacturers use to keep fish oil from going bad on the shelf is a process called esterification. In chemical terms, an ester is what you get when you add an alcohol (in this case, everyday drinking alcohol, or ethanol) to an acid, like the decosahexaenoic acid (DHA) or eicosahexaenoic acid (EPA) in fish oil.
Pure DHA and EPA react with oxygen and spoil. Esterified DHA and EPA don't react with oxygen and don't go bad in the bottle.
They don't work in your body, either. For your body to benefit from esterified fish oils, the artificial fish oil derivative has to be broken down by esterases released by your pancreas. If your pancreas is busy dealing with other kinds of fat, there may not be enough esterases for your body to use the fish oil.
And even if there is not a problem with your body producing the enzymes, the release of DHA and EPA from their esters takes time. Your body may absorb as little as 1/3 of the essential fatty acids in the product before the passage of food through your intestines results in the rest of the esterified fatty acids being flushed down the toilet.
If the product says "esterified" on the label, don't buy it. You want pure fish oil, preserved with herbal extracts. You don't want esterified fish oil, that was made by stirring it in hexane, after it was extracted from smelly fish.
There is one other ingredient that should scream "Don't buy me!" when you see it on a fish oil label. That ingredient is "marine liquids" or "marine solids."
What are marine liquids and marine solids? They are unidentified stuff that came in with the fish. Chances are that any bacteria in this marine junk are dead, but the unnecessary additive to the fish oil capsule can give you fishy burps or diarrhea.
There is a really easy way to make sure you are not getting marine liquids and marine solids. Make sure your product contains at least 400 milligrams of DHA plus EPA in each capsule. If you are getting this much of the essential fatty acids you need, there's not enough room left for the marine waste you don't need.
Choosing the best fish oil is not hard when you follow these three principles. And you don't need to look any farther than Xtend Life.