We had already discussed the benefits of Omega 3 in a previous article and today, we are answering a question that was asked to us recently:
“What does the Totox Omega 3 index mean and how is it a quality criterion? »
We will also take the opportunity for a quick overview of the other qualitative criteria of Omega 3.
What is the Totox Index? Is it important ?
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are particularly fragile and sensitive to oxidation.
Any exposure to oxygen in the air will cause a reduction in their beneficial properties. This process is enhanced by light and heat.
This explains why it is advisable to store oils rich in basic Omega 3 (ALA), such as walnut or flaxseed oils, in small bottles, away from light, and to consume them quickly.
When Omega 3 oxidizes , they lose most of their interesting physiological properties.
After a certain level of oxidation, their consumption is even discouraged and their taste is unpleasant (rancidity).
The TOTOX index measures all the different forms of fatty acid oxidation by aggregating the results of two measurements:
- the peroxide index (x 2)
- the p-Anisidine index
The Totox index is a good indicator of the actual quality of the oil used, even if it is not the only criterion to take into account (see below).
The Totox index: an important indicator of quality of Oils rich in Omega 3
TOTOX Index scores range from zero (in theory) to over 50:
- Less than 10: very little oxidized oil and very good quality
- Less than 26: acceptable threshold *, (maximum limit accepted by the World Organization for Omega 3 EPA and DHA. (the 'GOED')
- Above 26: very oxidized oil (for example the Totox of heated rapeseed oil will frequently exceed 50)
*large-scale measurements carried out in the USA and New Zealand showed that a significant proportion (30 to 50%) of Omega 3 Supplements marketed nevertheless had a TOTOX index greater than 26!
The oil production process has an impact on oxidation and TOTOX
As stated above, heating, exposure to air and light are important accelerators of oxidation.
It logically follows that fish or krill oils obtained by hot pressing have on average significantly higher TOTOX (15/20) than that of oils obtained by enzymatic extraction at room temperature.
Beware of commercial arguments!
The TOTOX declaration is not obligatory and is therefore not governed by regulations.
Some unscrupulous manufacturers may communicate flattering scores without it really being possible to verify them. It is prudent to have information on the reliability of the laboratory that carried out the measurement. ISO 22000 certification notably guarantees the implementation of good laboratory practices.
Other quality criteria to take into account when choosing Omega 3 supplements:
1. Essential: DHA content
DHA is the form of Omega most difficult to synthesize by the body , even when intakes of 'basic' Omega 3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) are satisfactory.
We consider that 10% of these ALA will be transformed into EPA and only 1% into DHA (on average). Knowing that it is necessary to provide the body with 250 mg of DHA/day, this would require consuming 25 g of Omega 3 ALA per day, i.e. daily quantities of oil rich in Omega 3 (rapeseed, nuts) greater than 50 grams (and even double if we take into account their possible oxidation!).
Apart from frequent consumption of fatty fish, DHA must be provided with supplements, with a specified and significant content (order of magnitude: 250 mg/capsule).
2° Ethics and the intrinsic quality of oils: an interesting convergence
Oils from fish or krill must undergo a filtration and refining process to rid them of pollutants and in particular heavy metals resulting from sea pollution.
Algae oils cultivated in a controlled environment are free from these original pollutions and make it possible to obtain a DHA concentration equivalent to the best fish oils with gentler extraction and refining processes (therefore less oxidizing); Algae oils come from a sustainable production process, controlled in terms of biological quality and without impact on marine fauna = a significant double advantage.
Other vegetable oils rich in Omega 3 (rapeseed, walnut, flax, chia, etc.) do not contain DHA in significant proportions and are therefore of no interest in supplementation: they must be used as a basis in the daily diet to salads and other cold uses, to cover ALA/EPA needs.
3° Omega 3 in soft capsule rather than liquid
Encapsulation is the best way to preserve DHA-rich oil from oxidation.
Even for edible oils rich in Omega 3, obviously available in bulk, we recommend: small packages (representing less than a month of consumption), in opaque bottles and stored in the dark at room temperature.
4° Be wary of unusual prices and poorly identified origins
The application of all the qualitative rules set out above requires sophisticated production processes and controls which obviously have a significant cost, particularly when carried out in Europe.
Apart from special promotions, very cheap products or products of poorly defined origin may prove to be very inconsistent with the promises made by their seller.
If in doubt: ask the seller for certification of the declaration from the DGCCRF, obligatory for marketing a food supplement in France, this is a first precaution.
Our Omega 3 DHA supplement:
For information, for our Argalys Essentiels Omega 3 DHA supplement:
- Measurement carried out in May 2020, laboratory in France, ISO 22000 certified
- Registered under number 2018-12-436 at the DGCCRF
- Peroxide index: 1.6
- Anisidine P index: 3.6
- Totox: 6.8 (i.e. 1.6 x2 + 3.6)