Comparing Omega-3 Supplements: Why Quality Matters

Omega-3s are essential for your health. One of their top benefits is helping to manage inflammation in your body, the root of many prevalent diseases.

The main source of omega-3s comes from seafood. However, because of western dietary patterns and the lowering nutritional value of harvesting seafood, many Americans do not consume enough omega 3s, and therefore turn to supplements. As people turn to supplements to fulfill their necessary omega-3 intake, it is vital to understand: the quality of supplements matters. 

Steve Jobs once said, “Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” 

Even though all omega-3 oils come from the sea, whether fish or algae, there are many differences in the quality of your omega-3 fatty acids that you should be paying attention to. Some of the most important aspects of a quality omega-3 supplement include sourcing, the purification process, and concentration. Let’s take a deeper dive (promise this is the only sea pun in the blog) into why Lightbody™’s Omega-3 supplements stand out from the crowd.

Sourcing of Omega-3s

Fish oil is the main source for omega-3s in supplements, but there are other sources such as krill, cod liver, and vegetarian/vegan alternatives such as algae. Because supplements mainly use fish oil for their omega-3 content, it is important for a brand to achieve International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) recognition.

The IFOS is the gold standard for independent testing and certification of fish oil quality in supplements. It’s a reflection on the sourcing of a supplement’s fish oil. IFOS certification is not a legal requirement, and therefore some brands may not necessarily be up to the standards.

As part of the IFOS certification, independent researchers look at contaminant levels within the fish oil. The sourcing methods can impact the contaminant levels in fish oil. Seafood and fish oil are vulnerable to being contaminated, through the water they live in and are harvested from, whether that is from the ocean or fisheries. As the world has become more industrialized and commercialized, there is more chemical runoff and pollution. Unfortunately, this pollution makes its way into the water system and the ocean ecosystems. Common contaminants are metals including mercury and lead, industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides.

The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) set a limit for contamination at 100 parts per million. In an analysis of 1,894 samples, GOED found that all the samples tested fell within the range of acceptable contaminant levels. Despite brands falling into the acceptable and legal range for contaminants, there may still be relatively high levels of contaminants and toxins.

Lightbody™ Omega-3 supplements adhere to standards that are 25 times more stringent than pharmaceutical requirements for contaminants. And they’re 50 times more stringent than the supplement industry requirements. Lightbody™ is one of the cleanest products available on the market due in part to the specific sourcing of fish oil: single-sourced young anchovies (not a mix of multiple fish) that have short lifespans and hence are some of the purest fishes in the ocean. These anchovies are harvested right on the coast, straight from the pure waters of the south Pacific Ocean. This practice helps Lightbody™ minimize the overall contaminant levels in their supplements.

Many brands will use a variety of fish and seafood to source their oil, increasing the chances for contaminants. They also use fish farms, the commercial breeding of fish in tanks or artificial enclosures. The chemicals and pesticides used in fish farming to control parasites and disease can and do pollute the water, leading to even more contaminants in the fish and surrounding ecosystems. Even worse, because of how condensed the fish are in these farms—a lot of fish in a little space—the water is contaminated further from waste. Not to mention the lower nutritional value of fish from fish farms.

It makes you think: do you want to consume supplements whose fish oil is sourced from such a place? 

The Purification Process

To get from fish in the ocean to an omega 3 supplement is a long, scientific process. The purification process is a key factor in maintaining the product’s freshness.

When eating seafood, fresh is best. It’s always a bad sign once seafood starts to smell fishy. This same principle carries over to fish oil in supplements.

Just as seafood can go bad, so can fish oil. This occurs when it is exposed to oxygen and oxidizes. Omega 3s are highly prone to oxidation degradation because of the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs become more susceptible to oxidation because of simple chemistry. They contain two or more double bonds in their molecular makeup—more bonds increase the likelihood of oxidation.

When fish oil oxidizes, it can lead to hydroperoxides that decompose into free radicals, which can turn into volatile ketones and alcohols. PUFAs may also encourage lipid peroxidation.

The bad news is that many brands neglect stability (a.k.a. freshness) in their product. 50% of the leading brands were found to exceed voluntary limits for at least one measure of oxidation.

Consuming oxidized fish oil can lead to serious negative health effects. One study found that in rats, consuming oxidized fish oil during pregnancy led to higher newborn mortality and increased maternal insulin resistance. In a human study, rancid fish oil consumption in women led to negative impacts on their cholesterol levels.

Because of the laborious process that occurs to get the fish oil in the final supplement product, there are many factors that can trigger oxidation, including fatty acid composure, exposure to oxygen and light, temperature, antioxidant content, and the presence of water or toxins, as well as the extraction and purification processes.

We said the bad news first, so we could save the good news for second.

The fish oil in Lightbody supplements is purified through a patented cold-pressed molecular distillation. While heat can kill contaminants, it can also kill nutrients. Cold molecular distillation is a process of converting the anchovies into an oil using vacuum distillation to remove all metals, dioxins, and PCBs to undetectable amounts. Unlike other brands, Lightbody’s distillation process is done in a way to decrease oxidation and thus decrease chances of fish oil going bad. Lightbody’s suppliers process the oil in a way that sees the least amount of oxidation our researchers could find of any omega-3 ingredient in the world. Their patented process creates a 100% triglyceride fish oil, which is the most bioavailable and digestible form.

Other omega 3 supplements use processes that increase oxidation, decrease absorption, and are tough on digestion. 

What does it mean to have the most bioavailable triglyceride formula? Bioavailability is the amount of the supplement that reaches circulation. A supplement is basically worthless if it cannot be absorbed, and your body can’t circulate the nutrients.

Ingredient Concentration

When looking at supplements, to make sure you are absorbing the correct amount of omega-3, you need to consider the bioavailability (which determines how much actually enters your bloodstream), the concentration per serving, and if their label is IFOS certified to guarantee that the stated concentration per serving is actually accurate.

A study from The Ohio State University found that 2,500mg of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, the highest dose tested, worked the best at slowing cellular aging and reducing stress. Most experts recommend 1.5 – 2.5mg of fish oil a day. However, newer research supports omega-3 servings up to 5mg being beneficial to the body.

Part of an IFOS certification questions whether or not a product contains an accurate description of ingredients and their concentrations.

Independent researchers found that in a sample of over-the-counter supplements, over 70% did not contain the amount stated on the label of EPA or DHA. 

As the label says, each Lightbody Omega-3 supplement has a concentration of 891 mg of DHA or EPA per soft gel and 3450 – 3560mg of DHA or EPA per serving. This is notably higher than other brands, offering the most concentrated formula available. We recommend taking the full serving (4 softgels) for pharmaceutical-grade support, or just 2 daily for regular Omega-3 maintenance.

Another problem with some omega-3 supplements lies in the concentration of unwanted ingredients. Some supplements opt for ingredients that contain fillers, usually other oils that are actually a source of omega-6. While your body does need a small amount of omega-6s to balance with the omega-3s, too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation. If your goal with taking a fish oil supplement is to decrease inflammation, you probably don’t want half the oil in your softgel to be omega-6.

Lightbody’s softgels are made with the cleanest and most bioavailable triglyceride formula available, with no added ingredients that are harmful to your health (and no omega-6s hiding in the formula like other brands).

(We could go on about the benefits of omega supplements for a long time, which is why we wrote a whole blog about it! Check it out to learn more).

Why Lightbody™ Omega Supplements? The Takeaways

Let’s take a brief look at the fish oil industry now. Fish farming is the fastest growing animal sector. Since 2012, the world has begun consuming more seafood farmed through aquaculture than wild caught. While fish farming may be the only way to keep up with growing demand for seafood and is becoming more commonplace, it is at a detriment for consumers. Seafood that is artificially grown and farmed may lack the nutrients the species used to have when they were wild caught. The same goes for fish oil sourced from fish farms.

The manufactured, plant-based fish feed used in aquaculture is changing the fatty acid content in farmed fish and thus affects human nutrition. A study from Johns Hopkins University shows that although shifts in feed may be beneficial for the environmental impact, it is changing the nutrients found in the fish.

Not only is the nutritional makeup of seafood changing due to fish farming, but seafood tends to be relatively high in contaminants, specifically mercury, PCBs, and environmental toxins.

Lightbody omega supplements address both of these issues. The fish oil in the supplements comes from wild caught anchovies straight from the ocean, which is a sustainable practice and ensures that the nutritional content is not altered from artificial fish feed. Through the extraction and purification process, it removes the toxins that contaminate other seafood.

When taking supplements, the quality of your omega 3s matters because consuming low-quality supplements can lead to adverse health effects.

When looking to buy an omega supplement, it is important to pay attention to active ingredient content, contaminants and the purification process, and stability to ensure you are fueling your body to become better, stronger, and healthier. Lightbody is here to support you and your quest for digital wellness with our Omega-3 DHA and EPA supplements.

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