Article provided by Coromega
Fish oil and omega-3 supplementation has been a hot topic in the health world for years. It is of little debate that omega-3 fatty acids are important in human nutrition. They are essential fatty acids, necessary from conception throughout life. They are an integral part of the human body, as they are important structural components of the phospholipid membranes of tissues throughout the entire body, especially the retina, brain, and spermatozoa (1).
In addition, they may reduce the risk or improve the condition of certain diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke, some forms of cancer, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, mild hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis (2).
Yet with all the benefits of fish oil known to healthcare practitioners, we commonly hear patient questions and concerns such as:

  • Why should I take fish oil?
  • Sometimes fish oil gives me fish burps or a fishy aftertaste, what can I do about it?
  • Do emulsified fish oils have any advantages over softgels?
  • Where is the fish oil coming from and what are the best sources?
  • Do I have to worry about heavy metals in fish oil.

The typical dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the United States is far below the recommended intake (3). In order to meet these intake levels, it is recommended that individuals consume omega-3-rich fish twice a week (4). However, many people still do not meet this minimal intake through their diet. One way to increase omega-3 intake is through the supplementation of fish oil.
Despite all of the information known about fatty acids and their significance in the human body, practitioners may still wonder what the best form of fish oil supplementation is – capsule versus emulsified liquid. There are many factors to take in to consideration when choosing a fish oil supplementation, such as digestion, absorption, dosage and taste.
Research has indicated that emulsified fish oil supplements are likely better absorbed than standard fish oil capsules. When fish oils are emulsified they have the potential to improve the digestion and absorption of EPA and DHA due to a change in solubility of the supplement (5).
One study in particular found that a single dose of emulsified fish oil resulted in enhanced absorption of total omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (3). Better absorption, or bio-availability, means that the body can potentially use more of the oil per serving, and therefore receive increased benefit.
Supplementing with traditional fish oil capsules may require the consumption of multiple capsules per day, depending on the concentration of the product and the desired dose. Additionally, many consumers may avoid supplementing with fish oil capsules due to both its palatability and aftertaste (the dreaded “fishy burp”). However, an easier and more palatable way to consume fish oil is through the use of a concentrated, flavored emulsified fish oil preparation (3). It also has the benefit to improve compliance – simply put, flavored emulsified fish oil supplements tend to have a pleasant taste. Because they tend to be palatable and produce less after-taste, consumers tend to be more tolerant of them.
Furthermore, because emulsified fish oil supplements are highly concentrated and better absorbed, their dosage is typically lower than most conventional fish oil capsules. These are important factors that cannot be underestimated when recommending a supplement because the more likely an individual is to take a supplement on a regular basis, the better their dietary outcome and nutritional profile becomes.
We find that many healthcare providers are familiar with fish oil softgels but may not have first-hand experience with emulsified fish oils. When considering a fish oil supplement recommendation for clients or patients, we’ve found that discussing the benefits of emulsified fish oil in terms of the fish burp reduction in addition to the absorption benefit can be helpful in gaining their compliance and help put them on the road toward a healthier lifestyle.

(1) Neuringer M, Connor WE, Lin DS, Barstad L, Luck S. Biochemical and functional effects of prenatal and postnatal omega-3 fatty acid deficiency on retina and brain in rhesus monkeys. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1986;83:4021–5.
(2) Connor WE. Importance on n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71:171S–175S
(3) Raatz SK, Redmon JB, Wimmergren N, Donadio JV, Bibus DM. Enhanced absorption of omega-3 fatty acids from emulsified compared with encapsulated fish oil. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;1076-1081.
(4) USDA, DHHS. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report 2005. Internet: guidelines/dga2005report/
(5) Garaiova I, Guschina IA, Plummer SF, Tang J, Wang D, Plummer NT. A randomised cross-over trial in healthy adults indicating improved absorption of omega-3 fatty acids by pre-emulsification. Nutr J. 2007 6:4.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.