Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that we need to sustain our overall health and wellness. Fatty fish like salmon are the best food source of EPA and DHA, which are Omega-3 fatty acids bound to a mix of both triglyceride and phospholipid molecules. Most people do not, however, consume enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their regular diet to get the recommended daily dose. That’s where Omega-3 supplements like fish oil and krill oil can come in to help complement a healthy diet.
The Many Forms of Omega-3s
There are several different types of Omega-3 supplements on the market, and determining which one is best for you can be challenging.
When choosing an Omega-3 supplement, it’s important to know that marine oils are available in different forms that have been processed to different degrees. For example, the phospholipid component of fish oil is removed during processing. Thus, the remaining form of Omega-3s in fish oil is contained in triglycerides and free fatty acids. Dietary supplements of fish oil can be found in triglyceride form or converted to Ethyl Ester form in order to concentrate Omega-3s in the finished product.
Interestingly, there are a few Omega-3 supplements that are bound to phospholipids. These supplements provide a more desirable form of phospholipids.
Krill oil supplements deliver Omega-3 EPA and DHA in a mix of triglyceride and phospholipid forms, similar to the balance that one receives through natural food sources of Omega-3s like real fish.
So, let’s get technical. What exactly are phospholipids, triglycerides, and ethyl esters?
A phospholipid is made up of two fatty acids, present on two of the carbons of the glycerol (3-carbon) backbone of the cell, while one of those carbons is connected to the "head group" of the phosphate.
Phospholipids have numerous roles to play within the body, but at their most fundamental, they are a significant component of cellular membranes, maintaining cellular structure, protecting organelles, and helping mitochondrial function. Thanks to their additional water-soluble properties, phospholipids have the added benefit of being easier to digest than triglycerides (mainly found in fish oil).
Omega-3 fatty acids bonded to all three carbons of glycerol (3-carbon) are considered triglycerides. Triglycerides are stored in our fat cells and released between meals for energy. Omega-3s in fatty fish like salmon are found in both phospholipid and triglyceride forms.
EPA and DHA fatty acids can be made into Omega-3 "concentrates," thanks to a processing technology that connects the fatty acids to ethyl group. This type of processing results in ethyl ester forms of Omega-3.
The glycerol backbone is missing in ethyl ester forms, and some research suggests that the Omega-3 fatty acids in the processed ethyl ester form may not absorb as effectively as triglycerides or phospholipids when taken without a fatty meal.
These ethyl ester concentrates can be distributed as a source of EPA and DHA through dietary supplements or converted back to triglyceride form and become a re-esterified triglyceride supplement.
Krill Oil vs Fish Oil Omega-3 Supplements
Antarctic Krill Oil:
The source of krill oil is a tiny shrimp-like crustacean found in the pristine waters of Antarctica. If you're seeking a sustainable source of Omega-3 with phospholipids, krill oil is the one for you. Krill oil delivers Omega-3 EPA and DHA in a mix of triglycerides and phospholipids, as you would find in fatty fish. Antarctic krill are well known for their high resistance to oxidation. This is due to their ability to extract astaxanthin from their algae-rich diet. In addition to Omega-3 EPA and DHA, krill oil also naturally contains choline. Choline is another essential nutrient that supports brain and nervous system, and liver health.
When many fish oil supplements are processed, they lose phospholipids. As a result, most fish oil supplements only deliver Omega-3s in the triglyceride form. In some cases, fish oil suppliers will convert the natural triglycerides to ethyl esters and concentrate the fish oil to yield higher percentages of EPA and DHA. Ethyl ethers may not be as easily absorbed and utilized by the body when taken without a fatty meal.
Shopping for Omega-3 Supplements?
As a conscious consumer, you have many choices of supplements on the market, but if you're looking for an Omega-3 supplement with the easy absorption of a phospholipid, Kori Krill Oil is a great choice. It combines Omega-3s in a mix of triglycerides and phospholipids and provides astaxanthin and choline, all without the fishy aftertaste of your typical fish oil.