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What Is Molecularly Distilled Fish Oil?

By M.J. Casey
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Molecularly distilled fish oil as a dietary supplement has gained favor in the medical community over several decades. Fish retain the heavy metals, pesticides, and herbicides that they consume. These contaminants must be removed before consumption by humans. The useful fatty acids present in fish oil are often concentrated to enhance the supplement’s effectiveness. The use of molecular distillation addresses all of these concerns and separates the beneficial fatty acids from the undesirable, smelly components of fish oil.

Numerous medical research studies show the benefits of diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The human body does not manufacture two of these fatty acids, but must consume them. Such molecules are available naturally in many foods, including soybeans, salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed. These may not be common foods in some diets, creating the need for molecularly distilled fish oil. Omega-3-fatty acids are believed to reduce cellular inflammation, which has been linked to cardiac disease, cancer, diabetes, neurological conditions, and other illnesses.

Many medical professionals recommend molecularly distilled fish oil as an affordable source of omega-3 fatty acids. Properly prepared fish oil supplements reduce the risk of exposure to contaminants consumed from eating the whole fish. Fish oil is composed of many different molecules, many of which are subject to degradation during heating or extensive handling. Therefore, low-temperature means of extraction must be used. Fish oil is extracted from the fatty tissues by pressing and filtering.

Molecularly distilled fish oil is purified by a process that maintains a low temperature and mild handling conditions. Distillation is a purification and concentration method by which the substances of interest evaporate, travel a distance, and condense on a separate surface. As the pressure of a system is lowered, volatile molecules will vaporize, or become gaseous at lower temperatures.

In molecular distillation, a molecule may escape the source chamber on the first or second evaporation. In a traditional still, the molecule may be evaporated and condensed a thousand times or more before leaving the chamber. Molecular stills operate at low pressures, use low or no heat, agitate the surface of the source, and provide a wide vapor exit path.

One of the two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid, is common in the diets of people consuming processed foods because it is found in corn, safflower, sunflower, and canola oils. The other essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, is a precursor to the manufacture of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are believed to be important in the maintenance of the cell membrane. Some researchers believe that the ratio of EPA and DHA are critical to effective use of fish oil. This ratio can be achieved by the use of molecularly distilled fish oil.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Dec 06, 2013

@donasmrs-- It's true that vitamins are lost through the distilling process but not every brand adds synthetic vitamins back in. The brand I use has added natural sources of vitamin A, D and E in my fish oil capsules.

By donasmrs — On Dec 05, 2013

I've read that molecularly distilled fish oil is bad because the distilling process removes the beneficial fish oil vitamins, like vitamin A. And then, they add synthetic vitamins to the supplement. I know that synthetic vitamin A can cause toxicity in large amounts and pregnant women are not supposed to take vitamin A supplements.

I think I'm better off taking regular, purified fish oil.

By ddljohn — On Dec 05, 2013

I'm taking an extra-strength, molecularly distilled fish oil supplement. It's a great supplement. It's very high in EPA and DHA. It also doesn't cause fish oil burps like other supplements. I think that's because of the purification process.

The supplement does cost more than the one I was using before but I think it's totally worth it. I have no idea what the purification method was for my other fish oil capsules. Safety comes first though, so I'd rather pay more and know that I'm taking something that's safe.

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