New Pharmaceutical Omega 3’s Are Not the Best Choice

Fish oil is not Fish oil

I was at one of my fellow clinicians offices  recently and I was asked if I had heard about that new pharmaceutical fish oil, Vascepa. And I answered that I had not heard of it yet. So he went on to clue me in on a presentation he had recently heard about the product and mentioned a few of the highlights. When he showed me the product I looked at the package and it had a catchy new subtitle, icosapent ethyl. I’ll get to that later. I was a little suspicious because something looked familiar about this product. What is so different about this product compared to the other pharmaceutical fish oils out there? I was able to obtain an insert from the medication, did some research and I was not surprised about what I found.

As has been the case with all pharmaceutical fish oil products, they do not match up to the fish oils found in nature. Of course this makes sense. Natural products are not patentable. Therefore, they have to change it to patent it. This way they can sale it for a profit. This has been the story of every fish oil product that has been introduced by the pharmaceutical industry.

 It’s still an ethyl ester no matter how it’s labeled

So what is different about the pharmaceutical fish oils? It all boils down to the form of the oil. Before I superficially delve into why this difference is important, you need to know that there are two forms that the oil can be present in. The first is triglycerides. The second is ethyl esters. Remember that catchy new subtitle I gave you earlier that was on the packaging of the new product, icosapent ethyl. That looks suspiciously close to ethyl esters. Would you know it, if you open the package insert, sure enough this product is an ethyl ester. Bingo! I knew right then there was a better option and this was basically the same product as in the past, just dressed a little different of course.


At this point you may be thinking, so what? What does this difference have to do with the fish oil that I take? Think back to the last time that you saw your doctor and they ran a lipid, or cholesterol, test on you. Do you remember how it was laid out? In order, the markers read total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. A cholesterol report does not read total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and ethyl esters. The reason it reads triglycerides is because this is the form of fat found in your body. It is also the form of fat found in animals in nature, including fish. So why would you take a product that is not like what you would find in nature? If you are going to adhere to a Paleolithic diet, you want to consume bioidentical nutrients, the same nutrients that are found in the foods that you eat.

Consuming the highest triglyceride percentage available offers some advantages.

-Triglycerides are the naturally occurring form in foods and in the body
Triglycerides have up to 100% more bioavailability than ethyl esters
-Easier to assimilate for patient with poor digestion and absorption
Less prone to becoming rancid
-No post digestion production of alcohol in the gut as with the ethyl esters.

Don’t be fooled by the new marketing hype about the new and improved fish oil. It is simply a modification of the previous oil with a catchy new name and label. If you want the best that nature has to offer, stick with the form found in nature, triglycerides.

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