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Should high quality fish oil not crystalize?

2017 February 27

Someone told me that a fish oil capsule that comes out of the freezer overnight like a hard rock of crystal isn’t good. Is that true? And what about your fish oil?

How fish oil reacts to cold doesn’t say anything about the quality. We notice that a very pure fish oil, like our Marinoil fish oil, crystalizes very quickly as opposed to a standard fish oil of a lesser quality.

We even had a customer that put our capsules in the freezer and deemed the quality as ‘not good’ because they were frozen. Her conclusion: there is no oil in it, but water. She’d read it ‘somewhere on the internet’. Apparently a baseless story that good fish oil should not crystallize or freeze in the freezer wanders around somewhere out there.

Yes, the fish oil-freezer story raises questions. I’ve been using fish oil from an expensive brand for three years. These don’t crystalize. A jar of a cheaper brand does, however. Is there scientific evidence for this? Or is it an urban legend? [omega-3-links]

The crystallization (or solidification) of the oil has to do with the fatty acid composition. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids aside from other fatty acids. The shorter fatty acids and the monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids solidify quicker than the omega-3 fatty acids with their long chains and poly-unsaturated compounds.

Solidification also occurs with extra virgin olive oil. If you put it in the fridge you’ll get flocculation. This is also solidification of a portion of the oil to fat.

Now you may wonder why one type of fish oil has it and the other doesn’t. On the one hand it depends on the natural variation of the type of fish and the origin of the fish (cold waters versus warm waters).

But the predominant reason is that some oil is processed extensively. All fish oil with a Omega-3 content above 50 to 55% has that higher percentage due to chemical processing. The fatty acids are first cut loose from the oil, after which a selection takes place. After that the desired fatty acids EPA and DHA are put back. Now you have an oil with a lot of EPA and DHA and a very low solidification temperature. This is not natural oil anymore. Sometimes the DHA fatty acids are replaced in the wrong positions in the oil. This may complicate the digestion.

With supplements with an extremely high EPA and DHA value (more than 80%), one can no longer speak of an oil. The fatty acids are then not put back (to glycerol). Then you end up with a so called ‘free fatty acid supplement’ or a supplement that contains ethyl esters of fatty acids. These kinds of supplements have an even greater negative consequences for digestion. In some countries they are prohibited.

Because consumers like numerical thinking, and a higher percentage simply sounds better than a lower one, these highly processed fish oil supplements are brought on the market. It is a way to distinguish yourself from the competition. A smart marketing person has come with the idea to incorporate the difference in solidification temperature with quality. It must have been someone from the company Fraud & Deceit.


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