Something smells fishy:

The science behind Omega-3 fish burps

May 14, 2020


  • Not all burps are equal. Some people are simply more prone to burping than others. You can’t control whether someone burps, but you can control whether those burps are clean burps or fishy burps. The secret? Quality ingredients and careful processing
  • Formulation matters. Traditional softgel capsules are more likely to prematurely release their contents in acidic environments like the stomach. Choosing the right formulation for your product will increase its chances of successfully reaching the intestinal tract for maximum absorption with minimal disruption.
  • Poor processing, bad belches. Form follows function, which means even the best softgel casing can’t cover up a poorly-processed, low-quality oil. Cutting corners may save you money, but it won’t spare you from fish burp embarrassment.
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There’s no arguing the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists have proven Omega-3s can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease, and fight inflammation (to name a few).

So why is it that, for many of us, our efforts to regularly consume Omega-3s are “rewarded” with bad breath?

Let’s unpack the foul-smelling subject better known as burpback.

Sometimes called “fish burps,” “fishy burps,” or “fish oil burps,” this off-putting and unwelcome Omega-3 side effect has been sabotaging first kisses for decades... so much so that consumers rate fish burps the top reason they say “thanks, but no thanks” to Omega-3 supplements.

Are there Omega-3s out there that won’t cause fish burps? Believe it or not, the answer is yes. Before we share the secret to better breath and fewer burps, let’s start by unpacking the science behind what causes burpback in the first place.

What causes fish oil burps?

Burpback is the result of something malodorous (in this case, a low-quality fish or algal oil) releasing too early in the digestive process.

Fish and algal oils are often encased in a softgel capsule which, like the name suggests, is soft and therefore easier to break down.

Ideally, these capsules remain intact until they reach the intestinal tract; once there, the digestive system makes quick work absorbing nutrients. Unfortunately, however, sometimes these capsules dissolve sooner than intended—in the acidic environment of your stomach, for example.

To be clear: this is not your stomach’s fault. Science has taught us that oil and water don’t mix, so it makes sense that as these capsules begin releasing their contents, they might cause you to burp. This audible release of gas from the upper digestive tract is your tummy’s way of saying, “Hey, we need a little help down here to keep this train moving!”

Keep in mind, too, that some people are naturally more prone to burps than others. The point here is not to eliminate all burps forever (annoying as they may be, they mean no harm), but to make sure your burps are clean burps… not fishy ones.

There are two possible culprits responsible for burpback: type of product casing and the quality of the Omega-3 oil inside.

Certain additives commonly found in softgel casings can cause bad gas, bloating and digestive upset, so it's no surprise then that fish burps might follow. There are, however, casing options available — like vegan casings made from tapioca or cellulose — that have been shown to be easier on the gut.

On the other hand, a poorly-processed, low-quality oil will trigger fish burps regardless of when it’s released into the digestive system. However, as you might expect, the sooner it releases, the fishier those burps will be. To make matters worse, unstable oils of low or questionable quality may actually start breaking down casing—no matter what additives have or haven’t been used—before your stomach acid ever gets the chance.

Moral of the story: better oil, better burps.

Why do Omega-3 supplements smell?

Now, you might assume that fishy burps come from, well... fish. It turns out fish are not solely responsible for that oceany scent many associate with Omega-3 supplements; in fact, it comes from the food those fish eat.

That’s right. We’re talking about algae. *gasp*

Now, you may be wondering: if algae is to blame, why would anyone produce a vegetarian Omega-3 product derived entirely from these plants?

Following this logic, wouldn’t a vegetarian Omega-3 solution derived entirely from algae make for even fishier burps?

Not necessarily. And here’s why...

Although flavored oils and scent tabs do a nice job of offsetting oceany tastes and smells, no amount of flavoring can compensate for an oxidized, poorly-processed oil. The best process begins with the best ingredients.

Our micro-algae strains pass the belch test with flying colors because they are extracted and refined in ways that are clean, consistent, and considerate of their final form.

Through strategic partnerships and carefully executed, proprietary processes. We ensure our algal oil is minimally oxidized to preserve its integrity.

We protect the integrity of our algal oil through careful processing that minimizes oxidization to produce a quality product chock full of Omega-3 goodness.

Here’s a peek into our process:

  • A closed-system fermentation protects our micro-algae from environmental pollutants, some of which can make bad breath worse.
  • We use water to break down cell membranes, eliminating the need for harsh, damaging chemicals.
  • We remove any lingering impurities that may negatively affect things like taste and nutritional value, leaving a finished product that is virtually odorless and tastes fresh.

Why go to these lengths? Because we’re here to make consuming Omega-3s easy, accessible, eco-friendly and, of course, enjoyable. We’re proud to offer our customers (who, in turn, offer their customers) the benefits of DHA-rich algal oil without the fishy taste or the fishy burps.

Have a question about Algarithm’s vegan, fish-burp-free Omega-3s? Don’t be shy — get in touch.