Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Fish Oils: ethyl ester or triglyceride or...?

Most fish oils today are molecularly distilled, changing them from their natural triglyceride forms to ethyl ester (esterified) forms.
Anything stronger than a natural strength fish oil (up to about 30% EPA+DHA combined) is typically concentrated by molecular (vacuum) distillation to allow vaporizing at low temperatures, in the process converting to the ethyl ester form. This allows separation of the fatty acid constituents in order to add back some of the desired omega-3 fatty acids in order to concentrate them up to 60% or higher levels of the oil. This is accomplished by removing undesired fractions that were separated by the distillation, such as cholesterol, triglycerides, and various other fatty acids.

Because of the warming oceans, the naturally occurring amount of omega-3 fatty acids in most fish have declined from historically about 30% to somewhat less. Due to this change, most fish oil supplements containing 180 mg. of EPA and 120 mg. of DHA (300 mg. combined in a 1,000 mg. fish oil capsule) now need to spike the potencies by adding additional EPA and DHA fractionated from the original oils by molecular distillation. It is now unusual to find even a low strength fish oil capsule that is not at least partially molecularly distilled into ethyl ester forms. 

Some of these distilled oils are then partially reconverted to a triglyceride form in a process called reconversion that involves adding back 20% or more triglycerides to the esterified fatty acids to try to reattach the triglycerides to the fatty acids with enzymes. This imperfectly produces a highly processed combination of both triglyceride and mono-and-diglyceride forms of omega-3 with many of the original oil’s natural constituents deliberately removed (cholesterol, omega-6, omega-9, stearates, et al). This newly engineered combination is called a reconverted triglyceride form (rTG) containing typically at least 60% triglyceride form fatty acids that’s distinct from the original triglyceride (TG) form, but is as far from the original triglyceride form as can be produced by intentional chemical manipulation. Numerous brands offer this rTG form and inaccurately call it a natural triglyceride form, when it is in fact far removed from that oil.

This is done because of a prevailing and largely disproven belief that the natural triglyceride form is best. That's certainly untrue for cardiology and the form has recently been shown to be largely irrelevant to absorption and efficacy in general. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Is Carrageenan Safe or Dangerous?

Undenatured carrageenan is a natural stabilizer, binding agent, and emulsifier used in products such as toothpaste in place of SLS and other truly undesirable ingredients commonly used in mass market products. It is also used in some vegan-friendly softgel capsule material as an alternative to animal-derived gelatin.

There is an Internet myth that carrageenan is unsafe; due primarily to confusion with a so-called “denatured carrageenan” polymer that is actually poligeenan, a heavily processed low molecular weight seaweed derivative currently used only as an x-ray imaging component. Poligeenan, previously used in pharmaceuticals, is quite different from the undenatured high molecular weight material that we use. Due to the safety concerns over poligeenan, regulations routinely require the carrageenan added to foods to have high molecular weight to ensure its integrity. But there are no unresolved safety concerns with undenatured carrageenan. 

Carrageenan has been thoroughly vetted by national and international public health authorities over a number of decades, even recently in response to the ongoing blogger-driven controversies, so there is no remaining basis of concern. Even its use in infant formulas was recently reconfirmed to be safe, and it’s helpful in distributing the nutrients more evenly to avoid the settling out that could otherwise cause uneven nutrient intake when a bottle is only partially consumed. 

After repeated investigations, the evidence for carrageenan safety is stronger than ever. Carrageenan is extremely safe and present in a number of healthy seaweeds; only the denatured form of carrageenan - a drug - is toxic. 


·        Public health and carrageenan regulation: a review and analysis. Borowitzka et al. (eds.), Nineteenth International Seaweed Symposium. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9619-8_8. Developments in Applied Phycology.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Is Sorbitol Natural?

Sorbitol is a "sugar alcohol" that occurs naturally in various fruits (apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, grapes, cherries, apricots, pears, rose hips, berries, dates, coconut) at levels of 1% or more. Wasabi can contain up to 11%, and common dried fruits (prunes, pears) almost the same level. Of course, beer would be expected to have small amounts, as well. 

Sorbitol can be commericially produced from glucose. Non-GMO sources are available. 

In higher doses (30-50 grams) sorbitol can be laxative, but it is a useful non-cariogenic sweetener that doesn't promote dental caries (cavities).