If there is anything that is certain about useful nutritional supplements, it's that the nutrients they supply are actually absorbed by the body, rather than being flushed away. Fish oil bioavailability is critical for your body to absorb the omega-3 fatty acids that fish oil capsules provide.
What determines the bioavailability of fish oil? The DHA and EPA in fresh fish oil are especially bioavailable because they are combined in an emulsion. These essential fatty acids exist as millions of tiny droplets of oil suspended in a liquid inside the capsule. This makes them much more readily available to the body, especially the EPA. This means the manufacturer can add more of the brain-healthy DHA to the product, up to 600 mg in a single capsule.
- Natural, "triglyceride" forms of fish oil are more completely absorbed than ethyl esters.
- Bioavailability isn't just about the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil capsules.
- Natural fish oils can deliver astaxanthin and coenzyme Q10.
The DHA and EPA in highly processed fish oils may or may not be as available to the body. Some companies treat fish oil with chemicals to bind the fats in the fish oil into a form that lasts longer on the shelf without going rancid. The result product is known as an ethyl ester of fish oil.
The DHA and EPA of ethyl esters of fish oil are only about 74 per cent absorbed, and they take up three times longer to enter bloodstream circulation. If the bowels move during the four to six hours after you take the capsules of ethyl esters of fish oil, then the DHA and EPA are lost. About 95 per cent of fish oil products on the market in the USA and Canada are the ethyl ester forms of fish oil. Ethyl esters of fish oil are banned in Denmark, Norway, and the UK.
So you want to make sure you buy a "triglyceride" form of fish oil rather than ethyl esters. If you use the naturally processed, triglyceride from of fish oil, such as products made by Carlsson and Xtend Life, then you are getting a well-absorbed product. But bioavailability also applies to the additives put in fish oil, not just the omega-3 essential fatty acids.
An important but little-known antioxidant that occurs naturally in most fish is called astaxanthin. It's essentially impossible for the human body to absorb astaxanthin unless it is mixed with fat. Although astaxanthin is not a vitamin and is not vital to human life, it's very useful as a supplement to nutrition. Various studies have identified astaxanthin as a healing agent for supporting recovery from hardening of the arteries, cancer, arthritic conditions, and neurodegenerative diseases.
You get a little astaxanthin from eating fish, especially salmon. You can get a lot of astaxanthin when a supplement, made by cultivating algae in special sanitary tanks, is added to your fish oil. And you can also buy fish oil that is supplemented with ubiquinone, also known as coenzyme Q10.
Coenzyme Q10 helps the mitochondria in every cell make energy. Coenzyme Q10 is important everywhere in the body, but especially in the organs that make the most energy, the heart, liver, and brain. It's not a "vitamin" because our bodies can make it, but treatment with statin drugs to lower cholesterol and beta-blockers to lower blood pressure interferes with the liver's ability to make the compound.
Coenzyme Q10 can give heart cells to continue to make energy even after their oxygen supply is diminished during a heart attack. It can help healthy tissues survive oxygen deprivation all over the body, and it's useful in supporting recovery from conditions as diverse as migraine headaches, Parkinson's disease, gum disease, radiation injury, and cancer.
Coenzyme Q10 is expensive, and you want to be sure your body absorbs the supplement you take. That's why adding this supplement to fish oil is such a good idea. Your body absorbs about twice as much coenzyme Q10 when it's added to an oil emulsion. Products such as Xtend Life Omega 3/QH Ultra offer you two supplements for heart protection with benefits for every organ in your body.
- Haug IJ, Sagmo LB, Zeiss D, Olsen IC, Draget KI, Seternes T. Bioavailability of EPA and DHA delivered by gelled emulsions and soft gel capsules. European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, doi: 10.1002/ejlt.201000450.