Buying a proper fish oil is a reasonably simple process, as long as consumers are armed with enough information. Otherwise, it is very easy to be misled about what fish oil is best for us. Now, TG fish oil is popping up as a superior type of fish oil. Let’s address this today to give you the truth.
Typically, we harp on two important points around fish oil: purity and potency. We care first about how clean fish oil is, as fishies live in some gross water.
Secondly, we don’t want you to get ripped off. Fish oil companies intentionally sell you dilute product – typically 1/10th the dose most of us need – because they can. They believe customers are uninformed about fish oil and its role and exploit that for profit.
Today, we’ll dig deeper into understanding the different TYPES of active ingredients. Not the difference between cod, pollack, krill, sardines, or even snails, but the molecular-level difference.
Yes, that’s how granular it gets. Spoiler alert – it kinda matters, it kinda doesn’t. Companies make a big deal about the type of fish oil to try to position their products as superior and move more units.
A Molecular View of Fish Oil
A fat molecule (of which the active ingredients of fish oil are) looks like this:
The names aren’t important. What is important is the length and shapes. Fat molecules are chains of carbon molecules that are either super straight (trans fats) or bent (cis fats). When they exist by themselves (as in the picture), they are referred to as free fatty acids. The length of the chain, or how many carbons there are in the chain, matters – but not for this conversation. Fish oil is a long chain fatty acid, and coconut oil is an example of a medium chain fatty acid.
Fats don’t typically exist as free fatty acids (FFAs). Fats are usually attached to a backbone of sorts. Three are usually attached to a single glycerol backbone, which then makes a triglyceride. Triglycerides are three fat molecules, or fatty acids, attached to a glycerol backbone. This looks like this:
The reason I discuss this isn’t to bore you or show off my pharmacist skills, I assure you. Companies are using this minutia to say one is healthier or better, so we should know how to refute that argument.
Taking the last picture, I want to demonstrate what the other two types of fish oil are, beyond triglyceride forms. The first is a phospholipid fish oil:
A phospholipid fish oil takes away one of the chains leaving just 2 (hence the red X), and replaces it with a phosphorus molecule.
Finally, an ethyl ester fish oil is below:
Ethyl ester fish oil breaks the fatty acid off the triglyceride, leaving just one fatty acid. It then attaches it to a different molecule. So it’s a single fatty acid attached to its own backbone.
There’s one more, newer entry to the list. A monoglyceride fish oil. So it’s like splitting the triglyceride into 3 separate pieces, a glycerol and a fatty acid.
What Kind Of Fish Oil Am I Taking?
Now that we know what the different types of fats there are, let’s relate them back to fish oil, lightning round style. I will use the term “fish oil” to make it easier for reading, but know when we say “fish oil” we really mean omega fatty acids.
Natural Triglyceride Fish Oil
If you take a fish and squeeze it, oil will come out. That oil is called “natural” triglyceride. This just means it is in the “raw” form – unprocessed, but also very dilute.
Re-Esterified Triglyceride Fish Oil
To make fish oil supplements, we need a concentrate of the fats. We need to process natural triglycerides from fish, and as a result, the fat compounds get broken a bit.
Re-esterified Triglyceride fish oil is a manufacturer’s attempt to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It’s taking the processed, concentrated fish oil, and chemically turning it BACK into a triglyceride.
This is the newest trend. Brands are referring to their product as TG Fish Oil and stating it is superior as it is closer to its natural state. This is not true – more on that later.
Ethyl Ester Fish Oil
If you take prescription Lovaza or use our Alaskan Omega, you are using an ethyl ester fish oil.
Phospholipid Fish Oil
Technically this isn’t “Fish” oil, but krill oil is typically found in the phospholipid form. They state that because every cell in our body is made of phospholipids, it is super healthy to use krill over regular fish oil as krill is ⅓ phospholipid. The thing is, every cell in everything has phospholipids, so we’re constantly ingesting phospholipids. But not like that matters, as phospholipids aren’t essential, meaning we don’t NEED to eat them to make a difference. Our body is making phospholipids all the time, using raw materials from our diet. So healthy fats are important, but increasing your phospholipid levels via supplementation is a silly practice.
Monoglyceride Fish Oil
This is some newer technology that we’re using in our MaxAbsorb products. This is a “pre-digested” fish oil, meaning your gut doesn’t have to do the work of breaking apart the triglyceride before it gets absorbed. As a result, there’s less fish aftertaste and better GI absorption. The raw material supplier brags of better tissue absorption, which may be true, but we aren’t sure if that matters. We LOVE the monoglyceride fish oil for people who, despite getting some ultra pure omega oils from us, still are getting the GI distress associated with such concentrated, fish-based oils. It almost completely eliminates that, making the use of fish oil a much more pleasant process.
The Truth About The Forms Of Fish Oil
Here’s the honest truth, without getting into the nerdy details and graphs to prove it (though we have all of that): there is NO difference in the impact of triglyceride fish oil over ethyl ester fish oil. Meaning, if you are spending extra bucks on a triglyceride form because someone told you it is better, save your money and get an ethyl ester.
- There’s no difference in the molecular forms of fish oil. Based on the available, fairly extensive research, how much we absorb and how fast we absorb fish oil all comes out in the wash, especially if two things are done. First, take your fish oil with a little food. Second, take your fish oil consistently. If those two are done, the absorption of both TG and EE fish oil are the same.
- Krill oil is a BIG waste of money. Even if the phospholipid form WAS superior, you’d have to eat a school of krill to get enough Omega-3s. A typical krill oil supplement has around 100mg of EPA and DHA, meaning you’d need 30 of them. Considering krill tends to fail more third-party analysis for rancidity, that kind of exposure can spell big problems long term.
- Monoglyceride oil is great, again, if you have digestion problems with fish oil. The dose most of us need of omega-3 fatty acids is pretty high – about 3000 mg daily of both EPA and DHA. Therefore we need to take a lot more fish oil pills or liquids than most consider. Because of the concentrated nature and sheer volume, some people just have a hard time processing it all at once. Those people do best with MaxAbsorb.
What Fish Oil Should I Get?
With all this taken into consideration, we have made an ultra-pure TG form so our customers who want TG can get a pure, potent, and affordable TG fish oil. Our Ultra Pure Omega 900TG is now available for those who do want the TG form of Omega-3. Some people just want their TG form, and I’m cool with that. I’m a bartender, after all. I just won’t let you drink tainted tequila.
Our recommendations, though, don’t change here. The idea of these newly marketed “TG” or triglyceride fish oils being better is just wrong. EE or TG fish oil – it’s all the same.
Always look for pure, potent fish oil. We’ve made a collection of our High Potency Omega-3 products to make it easy to find the best of the best.
With any of these, it is very easy to achieve your daily goals of EPA and DHA (around 3000mg for most people based on our typical diets – but ask one of our experts how much is right for you!).
All of our high potency fish oils are among the lowest cost per mg of EPA and DHA while being some of the cleanest oils from the most sustainable fisheries on the planet.
What matters most isn’t the form of fish oil, but taking the right amount of the cleanest fish oil every day.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth