Archive for April, 2010

Enteric coated fish oil capsules are becoming quite popular. Why?

There seems to be a consumer move to search out enteric coated fish oil capsules lately, and sales of enteric coated fish oil supplements have increased over the last few years. However many people don’t fully understand the nature of enteric coating, so we wanted to discuss exactly what eit is, and whether it is important to have enteric-coated fish oil supplements or not.

There’s no doubt about the health benefits of Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in fish oil. Health professionals now almost unanimously recommend that we all increase our intake of Omega 3 essential fatty acids, found primarily in fish oils, for a wide range of health reasons. Primary amongst these health reasons are that we can improve our heart and vascular health, reduce the incidence of heart disease and attract a wide range of other health benefits from taking fish oil capsules.

Many nutritional capsules come in what is called an “enteric-coating”. The concept of an enteric coating is a simple one. Many nutritional substances and vitamins are broken down by stomach acids, and therefore ingesting these nutrients in capsules which are broken down in the stomach renders the nutrients useless if they are destroyed by stomach acid.

An enteric coated capsule means that the capsule that bears the nutrients is able to pass through the stomach without being broken down and is then dissolved in the intestine. This releases the nutrients into the intestine where they are not dissolved by stomach acid.Enteric Coated Fish Oil Supplements

All of this seems to make complete sense, and therefore it is perfectly understandable, once they understand the concept of enteric coating, that customers look for enteric coated Omega3 fish oil capsules. However there is one thing that is missing from this equation.

It’s this. The Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil and delivered in Omega 3 supplements are not broken down by stomach acid. Whilst it is true that many nutrients are dissolved by stomach acid fish oils are not one of them.

In fact it is better for your health for the Omega3 essential fatty acids to be released in the stomach and digested there, rather than in the intestine.

If you see enteric-coated fish oil capsules recommended to you, it is just a marketing ploy. An enteric coating is completely unnecessary on Omega 3 supplements.

The company that makes what we consider to be the best Omega 3 supplements (see our banner at right to find out who) do not use an enteric coating on their fish oil capsules as they consider it to be entirely unnecessary for the reasons outlined. They do however utilize a proprietary enteric coating for some of their other products.

In fact they use a simple gel coating for their Omega3 products, because they want the fish oils to be absorbed in the stomach rather than the intestine.

There is however another matter to consider. There are sometimes some side effects of some brands of fish oil capsules. Once taken they can lead to “fishy burps”, or a fishy odor and after taste. However this has nothing to do with the presence or absence of any enteric coating on the capsule.

The cause of a fishy odor and after taste is generally poor quality rancid fish oils. If fish oil goes off, or goes “rancid”, it gets a fishy smell, (and also loses much of its health effectiveness.) Many of the cheaper fish oil supplements use fish oil purchased from wholesalers, much of which is old.

And some of these manufacturers of fish oil supplements will use an enteric coating so that the supplements pass through the stomach, thereby avoiding the fishy burps. However by far the best way to avoid these simple side effects is to use fish oil supplements that use fresh oil. This is also much better for your health.

So there is a simple answer to the question about whether or not you need to use enteric-coated fish oil capsules to get those all important Omega-3 fatty acids into your system. It’s entirely unnecessary, in fact it reduces the effectiveness of the fishoils, and the best fish oil supplements do not have any enteric coating. Non-coated fish oil capsules are just fine.

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Sales of Omega 3 supplements are growing faster than any other nutritional dietary supplement in history.

Lets examine exactly what Omega 3 supplements are and what they do.

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is one of the long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids known as essential fatty acids. It is, however, not the only essential fatty acid. Others include EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), and more. These are known as Omega 3 fatty acids.

They are known as essential fatty acids because scientists and health professionals who research our health consider them to be essential for the maintenance of good health, and to help prevent, or ameliorate a range of common health problems.

We have been brought up to believe that fats are bad for us. And in some cases this is true. For example saturated fat, most commonly found in animal products, is not good for our health. However it’s not true that all fat is bad for us and the Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, are considered essential to good health. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Unlike some nutrients our bodies are unable to create DHA, or the other essential fatty acids, itself. Rather we must rely on dietary intake for our supply of these Omega-3 fatty acids.

Whilst in the past there was a range of sources of DHA in our diet these sources have reduced over the past hundred years. Fish oil from oily fish was the single biggest source of DHA in our diets, however during the last century the amount of fish in the average American diet has reduced dramatically.Omega 3 Supplements

However there are other sources of DHA as well. For example meat has been a good source of DHA and EPA in the past, however is now not so. This is because most of our meat is now sourced from grain fed animals, and grain fed beef is low in these Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Grass fed beef is much higher in Omega3 fats however grass fed beef is now relatively rare in our diets.

Over the last 30 years research has established clearly that adequate supplies of  DHA and EPA, the 2 most important of the omega 3 essential fatty acids, is essential to a wide range of health issues. Research has shown that the average American diet is inadequate in Omega 3 intake and increasing our intake can offer a wide range of health benefits including a reduction in heart disease, including fatal heart attacks, a reduction in the risk of stroke, a wide range of brain benefits including improved memory and brain function and a wide range of other improvements in our health.

However to make the statement that Omega 3 supplements are possibly one of the most important health measures of our generation might be drawing a long bow. Or is it?

A study published in April 2009 performed by a group of Harvard University researchers the study examined your likelihood of dying from one or other of a series of various lifestyle factors.

Various mathematical formulas we used to estimate how many deaths occurred in one year (2005) as a result of each of these various lifestyle factors.
Lifestyle factors examined included smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, heart disease, alcohol consumption, stroke, diabetes and more.

It was estimated that approximately 467,000 deaths were caused by tobacco smoking. High blood pressure accounted for approximately 395,000 deaths. Overweight, lack of exercise and high blood glucose accounted for roughly 200,000 deaths.

But one of the interesting results of the study related to Omega 3 deficiency. There are probably not many health professionals who would list Omega 3 deficiency as one of your major risk factors, as one of the most likely causes of death.

Yet at number 12 on the list,  just behind a low intake of fruit and vegetables, came low dietary intake of the Omega 3 fatty acids. In other words a deficient intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids is a risk factor for dying, and one of the biggest risk factors.

Lifestyle diseases are often extremely difficult to address. Just ask any smoker how hard it is to give up smoking. Ask any drinker how hard it is to give up alcohol.

However addressing a deficiency of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids is not difficult at all, and simply involves eating more of the right type of fish or taking Omega 3 supplements. It’s simple, relatively inexpensive, and might save your life.

And when considered this way we don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that Omega 3 supplements may well be one of the most important health measures of our generation.

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Fish Oil And Contamination With PCBs Is Now The Subject Of A Lawsuit.

Chemical contamination is everywhere. Even in our oceans, and the results are that those of us who recognize the health benefits of taking the essential fatty acids found in oil from fish known as DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) may be getting an unexpected dose of PCBs with our morning Omega3 supplements. There is now an established link between taking capsules of fish oil and contamination with chemicals like PCBs, and more.

A Californian laboratory tested 10 well known brands of what are generally known as quality fish oil supplements, including some big names such as Nature Made odorless fish oil and Twinlab Norwegian cod liver oil, and found levels of PCB contamination at worrying levels.

PCBs are a particularly pernicious chemical banned in the US since 1979. There are hundreds of different variations, most of which are considered to cause cancer.

In California under proposition 65 it is a legal requirement that consumers be warned of any levels of chemical contamination in excess of certain levels. This is a health measure to warn the general community of worrying levels of contamination with various nasty chemicals, including PCBs.

Proposition 65 sets “safe harbor” limits for upper levels of contamination of PCBs, and the levels found in many of the supposedly high quality fish oil supplements exceeded these levels in some cases, and this was not disclosed to consumers of the products.Fish Oil and PCB Contamination

As a result a lawsuit has now been launched against various manufacturers of fish oil supplements alleging that their “highest quality fish oil” supplements don’t meet the standards required by Proposition 65, and that consumers are not warned of this.

Omega 3 supplements go by a range of descriptions, including “ultra-refined fish oil”, “pharmaceutical-grade fish oil” and more, but none of these is a guarantee of contamination free Omega 3 supplements. None have any legal definition. There is even a set of standards called the International Fish Oil Standards which set maximum levels of chemical contamination, but these are not binding and many people consider the levels for these toxins to be too lax.

Fish oil contamination with PCBs is a serious health concern. There is no doubt now that Omega 3 supplements offer a wide range of recognized health benefits such as a reduction in the risk of heart related health problems such as heart attack and stroke, a reduction in the risks of Alzheimers disease, and much more.

But you don’t want to be getting a dose of PCBs with your Omega 3 essential fatty acids, or you may be doing more harm than good.

Unfortunately this is an ongoing issue. The contamination of our oceans will only get worse, and many of the toxic contaminants dumped in our oceans last for many many years. It isn’t a problem that is going away.

Of course fish don’t know this, fish eat whatever fish eat, and if what they eat is contaminated then fish become contaminated as well. And if we eat that fish then the contaminants pass to us.

And of course it’s not just PCBs, there is a very wide range of industrial toxins which are accumulating in our oceans all the time. One of the more worrying ones is Corexit which was used to help clean up the Gulf oil spill, and which did so.

However although it may have helped clean up the Gulf oil spill there are now questions about how much Corexit is left in the ocean and for how long it will remain there. (And of course there is also the issue of contamination from the oil itself, and no one is 100 percent sure how long oil residue will last and how much of it will find its way into fish).

There’s some vexing issues here for humanity to address. Of course we don’t seek to try and address the issue of industrial contaminants in our waterways on this website, all we seek to do is to try to highlight the problem as it relates to fish oil supplements and give you some guidance.

It is quite possible to test for contaminants in fish oil, as you seen from what we’ve written above tests have shown some capsules to be contaminated.

In our view any consumer of Omega 3 capsules should make the cleanliness, or in other words the absence of toxins, their principal consideration. There is no point in taking supplements for your health if they contain ingredients which are bad for your health.

Part of the solution lies in where the fish are caught that supply the oil. Oceans around areas of heavy population are much more contaminated than oceans in much more remote parts of the globe. We would always prefer to use fish oil supplements that are manufactured from fish oil that comes from fish caught in the most remote location.

And in our view that’s still not sufficient. You should see on the website of the manufacturer a Certificate of Analysis which demonstrates that the capsules you’re considering buying have been independently tested and found to be completely clean.

Otherwise you may be getting a little dose of PCBs in your capsules.


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