When we first launched Omega Cure® in 2006, customers started reporting greater benefits than we anticipated based on research studies. Why did our liquid cod liver oil seem to be so potent compared to other omega-3 supplements, we wondered?
We thought the answer boiled down to three main points: 1) The dose we recommended, 2) The freshness level of the oil, and 3) Its full-spectrum quality.
But today, with the new research surrounding the microbiome, we wonder if those factors are just part of the answer.
What if one of the biggest reasons Omega Cure works so well is that we refuse to put our oil into capsules?
When most people think of fish oil, yellowish capsules usually come to mind. It’s worth remembering, however, that fish oil capsules are a relatively recent invention.
Liquid fish oils have been used for medicinal reasons since the Ancient Greeks. Already by the 19th century, practitioners actively studied and recommended liquid cod liver oil to prevent rickets, fight colds, heal wounds, and reduce joint pain.
These fatty acids were considered so effective that – during World War II – the British government included free cod liver oil in children’s rations. According to experts, this wartime generation was the healthiest in England’s history, partially thanks to cod liver oil.
Because cod liver oil had a notoriously bad taste and smell, it fell out of favor after the war. When omega-3 research took off a few decades later, encapsulating the oil seemed like an ideal solution. After all, with a capsule, no one would have to taste or smell the oil inside.
Though they seem more convenient and palatable, fish oil capsules have introduced a number of issues that liquid cod liver oil never had:
First of all, a deceptively small amount of oil fits inside gelatine capsules. This is a big problem since studies have shown that omega-3 benefits depend on getting an adequate dose.
With regular fish oil capsules, a person typically has to swallow 8-10 gel caps to equal the omega-3 dose found in a traditional tablespoon of cod liver oil (depending on the brand and concentration).
Since most people struggle to swallow this many pills, the switch from liquid to capsules has made it significantly harder for consumers to get the amount of omega-3s that earlier generations enjoyed by the spoonful.
How Much EPA/DHA Do Typical Capsules Contain?
To address the dose issue that fish oil capsules have created, many manufacturers concentrate their oil. These concentrates contain more beneficial EPA and/or DHA omega-3 fatty acids in fewer servings. However, to make space for these up-concentrated fatty acids in the gel cap, the manufacturer has to compensate by removing other naturally occurring fatty acids and nutrient cofactors from the oil.
This kind of processing can negatively impact the nutritional value of the oil. Moreover, studies reveal that highly concentrated omega-3s are not always as readily absorbed in the body as natural fish oils.
Capsules can create absorption issues for other reasons as well. It is well known in the pharmaceutical industry that different delivery methods can impact the bioavailability of medications. For instance, researchers have found that certain types of liquid medications can be 30 – 37% more bioavailable than the capsule equivalents.
One reason for the significant difference could be that with liquids, there’s no capsule that has to be digested before the contents are absorbed by the body.
As we’ve addressed in other articles, omega-3 oils are highly susceptible to spoiling (or oxidizing) due to the fatty acids’ many double bonds. According to numerous international studies, most fish oil supplements are rancid long before their stated expiration date.
Unfortunately, heat and oxygen exposure during the encapsulation process can contribute to turning fish oils rancid. In addition, when fish oil is put into capsules, people no longer taste and smell what they are getting. Since our taste buds are adept at assessing oxidation, capsules can make it harder for consumers to assess whether their oil is rancid or not.
Omega-3s are beneficial for maintaining a healthy microbiome. But how these fatty acids impact the bacteria in our gut and mouth may depend in part on the delivery form.
Aside from the above issues, research on the microbiome also sheds light on why fish oil capsules may be less effective than getting your omega-3s from foods and liquids.
Importantly, it’s not just the gut that has a microbiome. The mouth also contains a unique ecosystem of some 700 different bacteria species. This oral microbiome is deeply involved in our relationship with disease. For instance, new research shows that the same bacteria that causes periodontitis (a common gum infection) also seems to be responsible for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
We already know that omega-3s have a beneficial impact on the microbiome, increasing the diversity of bacteria and having a favorable antimicrobial impact on certain bacterial strains. In cell studies, scientists have additionally found that the omega-3s’ antibacterial effects include Porphyromonas gingivalis, the culprit behind periodontitis.
Now consider: If the mouth is where we are initially exposed to bacteria like P. gingivalis, what happens when we swallow fish oil capsules? In capsules, the oil completely bypasses the microbiome in the mouth and the upper part of the digestive tract.
In contrast, when you consume a liquid formulation, like Omega Cure, the oil comes in direct contact with the oral cavity and mouth mucosa, increasing the likelihood of the oil having a beneficial effect on these bacteria.
Fish oil capsules have some important advantages compared to traditional liquid fish oils and cod liver oils. For one, capsules have made it easier for scientists to standardize the omega-3 doses used in research, as well as conduct double-blind studies. Capsules also simplify the process of getting a consistent daily dose, since liquid fish oils can be tricky to measure precisely.
Fish oil capsules are also easy to travel with, do not require refrigeration, avoid oily texture issues, and fit into many people’s medication and supplement routines.
But are these reasons worth it?
We have dedicated years to solve some of these capsule advantages by creating Omega Cure Extra Strength and Omega Restore™. These vials deliver a standardized, pre-measured dose of liquid omega-3s, and are travel-friendly in addition. Best of all, these formulations have no fishy taste or smell, avoiding the palatability issues that drove people to using capsules in the first place.
Our goal is that by using these products, people will no longer have to choose between convenience and getting the full benefits of liquid cod liver oil.