Is there a difference in the availability or efficacy of an ethyl ester (EE) vs. a triglyceride (TG) form of EPA/DHA?
The so-called ‘natural form’ is the TG form whereas the EE form is a derived form via processing. The EE form is more readily concentrated to be enriched in EPA and/or DHA. Upon such concentration, the processor may choose to re-convert the EE form back to the TG form. Thus, both TG and EE forms of EPA/DHA exist in the marketplace. The majority of studies in humans have shown very little difference if any in the bioavailability (if taken at or close to meal time) or efficacy of the EE as compared to the TG form assuming identical intakes of the omega-3 fatty acids. When the EE form is consumed, the omega-3 fatty acid is released inside the gut along with the release of some small amounts of ethanol (alcohol). If 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acid were consumed in the EE form, this would release/generate approximately 150 mg of ethanol which is approximately 1% the amount of ethanol in a bottle of beer.