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Hi, My name is Kevin (learn more about me here) and welcome to this site.
As Editor and Reporter for Healthy-Oil-Planet.com, I've researched the health benefits of natural oils and tried to present you the most accurate and current information for enhancing your health with these products.
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Pros and Cons of Fish Oil Capsules
Fish oil capsules, also known as pills or soft gels, are one of the most popular forms of fish oil supplements.
Ensuring your diet provides optimal amounts of the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may help reduce inflammation, prevent cardiovascular disease and enhance mood and mental health.
You’ll find fish oils come in a wide variety of serving sizes, dosages and ingredients. Knowing how to choose the best fish oil capsules or soft gels will help you achieve the benefits you seek from this healthy oil.
While fish oil capsules may be popular, there are advantages and disadvantages when taking fish oils in this particular form.
The following information is my guide to help you choose the best fish oil capsules:
Differences Between Fish Oil Capsules and Pure Liquids
While you can get these healthy oils in soft gel and liquid, the soft gel is the most popular form. The following is a detailed list of the benefits and disadvantages to this form of delivery:
Protects the ingredients from light and UV radiation.
Helps keep ingredients stable.
Minimizes free radical formation.
May protect the oils from going rancid.
Most fish oil capsules are also tamper-proof; the oil will leak or become discolored if the soft gel has been punctured or tampered with.
Capsules are a more convenient form to package the oils
Fish oil capsules help you avoid tasting the actual oil
Omega 3 fatty acids are sensitive to light, heat and oxygen; over-exposure to these elements may break down the fish oil and lead to oxidation and rancidity.
Soft gel packaging may help reduce exposure to light and heat, however, the bottles should be stored in a dark, cool place. People sensitive to the taste and texture of fish oil can more easily swallow a capsule compared to forcing down a spoonful of oil.
Lower Concentration of Omega 3 fatty acids – Fish oil pills generally provide lower amounts of EPA and DHA per soft gel compared to a single tablespoon of liquid oils.
Higher Cost – Soft gels usually cost more per dose on a gram for gram basis than liquid fish oils. Capsules usually provide lower amounts of EPA and DHA per tablet.
May not come with an Expiry Date or Certificate of Analysis – Encapsulation may prolong shelf life but it won’t preserve the ingredients forever. You need some way to know how long the products will be safe to consume and expiry dates on the bottles help you determine this information.
Gelatin Source of Soft gels – Many fish oil pills are made from animal-based gelatin from cows or pigs (bovine and porcine sources). Some people may be concerned about contamination from diseased animal tissue due to unsafe manufacturing practices.
Animal-based gelatins are usually made from collagen which may contain connective tissue, skin and bones. These substances may cause allergic reactions such as indigestion, gastric bloating, aftertaste and fish burps in some people.
Dosage Amounts, Omega 3 Concentrations and Higher Cost
The most popular fish oil capsule or soft gel dosage is 1000 mg. Many people believe you’re getting 1000 mg of omega 3 fatty acids per tablet, but this is false.
You need to look at the ingredient label to determine the actual amount of EPA and DHA you are getting per dose. Some manufacturers may list the ingredients per single pill or for multiple pills.
For example, the above fish oil capsule label shows the amount of omega 3 fatty acids you would get from three capsules of fish oil. If you quickly glance at the label without taking a closer look, you may assume that a single fish oil capsule provides 1300 mg EPA and 520 mg of DHA.
However, if you take a close look at the ingredient label, you’ll see that this dosage is for three capsules; one of these fish oil capsules actually only contains a third of the listed amounts (about 430 mg EPA and 170 mg DHA).
Now I’m sure that the majority of savvy consumers can make this distinction, but some unwary shoppers may not look closely enough at the label and assume they’re getting a higher dose per capsule.
What may be surprising for many is that the majority of fish oil capsules only provide 30% omega 3 fatty acids per 1000 mg. This means that the average 1000 mg capsule will give you about 300 mg of EPA and DHA in total….with the remainder made up of other fatty acids or even fish filler.
In fact, it’s been reported that some childrens’ fish oil capsules may contain such low amounts of EPA and DHA that researchers believe they may have no effect on a child’s health.
Due to a lower concentration of omega 3 fatty acids per tablet, you may have to take higher amounts of pills to get the same dosage found in some liquid products.
For example, one teaspoon of Carlson Fish Oil provides 1600 mg containing 800 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA and 300 mg of other omega-3 fatty acids.
How Fresh are Fish Oil Soft Gels?
Soft gels do offer a more secure packaging; the only way someone can tamper with a soft gel is by piercing the outer layer which would let the fish oil leak out. The outer coating’s primary role is to keep the oil fresh and protect it from spoiling.
Most of these products are made from animal-sourced gelatin. As an alternative, you can get vegetarian capsules and tablets made from plant sources.
Curious how soft gels and two-piece capsules are made? Here’s a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at how soft gels are made.
How fresh are the ingredients in soft gels? The fish oil industry isn’t regulated and anyone can hire a company in some dingy basement lab to produce and package fish oil tablets. There are many low-grade, rancid oils packaged in soft gels and sold to unsuspecting consumers at a cheap price.
You need to research the company behind the product to ensure they offer a quality product. One way is by selecting a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil or one that comes with a Certificate of Analysis by a third-party laboratory.
Warning! Protect your Fish Oil Capsules from Heat
While the soft gel capsules are an excellent way to package highly-purified oils, they’re still vulnerable to the outside environment. Soft gels can be affected by excessive heat exposure so these products should be stored in a cool dark place.
I remember purchasing a bottle of fish oil tablets from a supposedly reliable company and found a number of soft gels had broken open inside the bottle.
This particular product was mixed with a lemon extract and there was a yellowish lemon-scented oil all over the inside of the bottle.
Upon contacting the company, I was told the bottle may have been exposed to excessive amounts of heat which may have caused the soft gels to rupture.
Heat exposure can oxidize the omega 3 fatty acids rendering them useless. Rancid fish oils is one of the leading causes for side effects from fish oil.
While capsules provide some protection to the oil, you may want to keep the bottle stored in the fridge to prevent heat exposure.
Benefits of Enteric-coated Fish Oil Capsules
Enteric-coated capsules are made of shellacs, waxes and even fatty acids.
These coatings allow for better absorption because the tablet bypasses the gastric juices in your stomach and are more easily absorbed in the small intestine.
An example of a enteric-coated product is Spring Valley Enteric Coated Fish Oil Soft Gels. This product contain a proprietary mixture called MEG-3, surrounded by a wax-based coating reported to minimize annoying fish burps and aftertaste.