In researching the quality differences in fish oil supplements we found a company in New Zealand that that has quality standards far above their competition. It’s called Xtend-Life Natural Products. It’s a family-owned manufacturer and distributor of natural supplements and skin care products. This page takes a close look at their standards for fish oil.
A closer look at fish oil
We have already covered the anti-inflammatory benefits of fish oil. Like any supplement on the market there are good and bad ones. This turns out to be especially true for fish oil. Low quality products may be contaminated with heavy metals, PCBs or dioxins. Such low quality can also limit the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega 3 fish oil.
Your digestive system converts food particles into natural molecules that the body can easily absorb. The food particles are now said to be bio-available to the body. When it comes to fish oil, the benefits can only start taking effect once the body has absorbed the nutrients contained within it. The more natural the molecular structure the more easily your body can absorb them.
(Ethyl Esters versus Triglyceride forms)
- Natural fish oil comes in a triglyceride form. This is the oil that you get when you ?squeeze? the fish and extract the natural oil from it. The drawback from this particular form of fish oil is that it usually has low overall omega-3 content because it?s not concentrated and generally has high levels of contaminants such as heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins etc.
- Ethyl ester oil occurs when you take natural triglyceride oil and concentrate it while distilling the oil to eliminate impurities. The concentration process cannot take place until the natural triglycerides are converted to an ester form. The ester form is still theoretically in a natural state because it is the result of a process that naturally occurs in the body in order for your digestive system to absorb natural triglycerides.
- Synthetic triglyceride oil is another form of fish oil that is very common and marketed as ?natural? when in fact it isn?t. It is a triglyceride, but not a natural one. It is produced after concentration. As mentioned above, the natural triglycerides are converted to ethyl esters for concentration. That is okay up to this point but some manufacturers then re-convert the esters back into triglycerides, which creates a synthetic form that the body is not used to and is less bio-available. Why do they do it? Because they can state that it is a triglyceride form and infer to customers that it is natural when it really is not.
Xtend-Life?s Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil is the perfect blend of 50% exceptionally pure, natural hoki fish triglyceride oil and 50% highly purified molecularly distilled ethyl ester tuna oil. The hoki fish is one of the best sources of omega 3 fish oil.
When measuring the purity of fish oil products, there are international standards but those standards have been set with the fish oil industry in mind rather than the wellbeing of the consumer. Fortunately the people at Xtend-Life have set their standards higher.
We found the purity standards at Xtend-Life to be better than the Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED), better than the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), better than the European Pharmacopoeia, and better than the Norwegian Medicinal Standard. In this case “better” means a higher standard, which means lower levels of contaminants, as low as three parts per billion.
- Xtend-Life levels for mercury are 10 times lower than the standards set by international organizations.
- Xtend-Life PCB level is set at 18 times lower than the US CRN. In Europe they don?t even set a minimum level.
- The dioxin levels are also set at a level four times lower.
A current Certificate of Analysis, which is published on their website, backs up these figures.
At Xtend-Life, they endeavor to give you the freshest products possible. They are so confident that their fish oil is the freshest in the world, they encourage you to cut open a soft gel of Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil and smell it. You should only smell a faint oceanic aroma ? if anything at all.
Their Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil is so fresh that they guarantee no burping or fishy taste. That is, as long as you don?t have any digestive ailments which could compromise your system. They will even give you a refund on the return of the partially opened bottle should you not be entirely convinced.
Note that the unpleasant burps that taste like fish, which you may have experienced with other fish oil supplements, was likely due to a rancid product.
How to determine the freshness of fish oil
Freshness is measured by oxidation. Always look for the total oxidation (TOTOX) value on the supplier?s COA ? it is made up of two components:
- Anisidine value
- Peroxide value
Some manufacturers in Europe do not publish their anisidine values and although the peroxide values may be reasonable, the overall TOTOX value can be very high.
Interestingly, some manufacturers do their testing just for the peroxide value (conveniently after encapsulation and after an elapsed period of time). The peroxide values in a soft gel actually go down over time but the anisidine values go up, therefore pushing the TOTOX value up as well.
It is a trick of the trade that some manufacturers use. Although the ?N/A? indication on the COA may mean ?Not Available?, it should really mean ?Not Acceptable? ? don?t be fooled.
- Xtend-Life’s Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil has oxidation specifications that are significantly lower than any international standard (the lower the better).
- When compared to the oxidation specifications set by a US-based monograph, their standards are nearly double the freshness levels ? from the peroxide to TOTOX values, including the all important anisidine value.
- Their peroxide specifications are four times better than those set by the European Medicinal Standard, while their anisidine and TOTOX values cannot even be compared to these organizations as they all list their respective values as N/A ? and we all know what that means.
The table below shows comparative oxidation specifications between acceptable international standards and Xtend-Life standards. All of the indicated values are absolute minimum standards.
MORE ABOUT DHA AND EPA
DHA is essential for the growth and functional development of the brain in infants. It is also required for maintenance of normal brain function in adults.
The inclusion of plentiful DHA in the diet improves learning ability, whereas deficiencies of DHA are associated with deficits in learning. DHA is taken up by the brain more readily than any other fatty acid.
Other omega-3 fatty acids follow DHA in order of complexity, number of carbon chain bonds and overall efficacy for your body. They are:
- EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) has 20 carbon bonds. It is difficult for the body to convert EPA to DHA because it has to add two carbon bonds. On the other hand the body only has to ?drop off? two carbon bonds from DHA to create EPA.
- ALA (alpha linolenic acid) – commonly found in flaxseed oil, this omega-3 fatty acid only has 18 carbon bonds, making it almost impossible for the body to manufacture DHA from.
- DPA (Docosapentaenoic acid) acts as the ?sidekick? for both DHA and EPA. There has not been a lot of research carried out on DPA however, it does appear that there are some real benefits associated with DPA because ? like DHA – it has 22 carbon bonds.
What makes Xtend-Life’s Fish Oil so unique?
- Xtend-Life has an agreement with New Zealand?s largest fishing company to acquire all of the oil extracted from freshly caught hoki. Other hoki oil from other sources has been frozen and is handled differently with different levels of purity and freshness.
- The tuna oil they use goes through a proprietary purification process prior to molecular distillation and concentration. This process removes impurities such as PCBs and dioxins to a level not possible by molecular distillation alone.
The Bottom Line
When we added all of the above up it became obvious that Xtend-Life stands head and shoulders above their competition. If you are considering a fish oil supplement take a look at their Omega 3 / DHA Fish Oil