Cod liver, wild salmon or krill oil – it’s easy to get dizzied by the myriad of fish oil varieties in the supplement aisle. We’re demystifying the most common terms and revealing the five key considerations in choosing the most beneficial fish oil for you
Learn how to choose a high-quality fish oil that contains the right dosage for your health needs.
You probably know by now that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are good for you: They’re excellent for your ticker, a boon to brain health and help maintain visual acuity. The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization both recommend regular fish consumption for its fatty acid content. And our very own in-house nutrition guru, Jonny Bowden, PhD, calls fish oil “one of the most anti-inflammatory compounds in the world.”
If you are not getting at least two servings of fish per week, have a condition such as arthritis or heart disease, or are at risk for macular degeneration, you might consider taking a supplement. Not all fish oil supplements are created equal, however; they vary widely by type, quality as well as balance of fatty acids. Choosing a fish oil doesn’t have to be rocket science, though. We’ve broken down the varieties you’re most likely to see in the supplement aisle and five key things to consider when selecting a brand for you.
1. Look at the variety of fish and how it’s sourced. When a product is labeled āsK oil, itÚs t\picall\ a blend oI more tKan one āsK Ø usuall\ smaller āsK sucK as ancKovies, sardines and mackerel. $ āsK oil blend is affordable and has the most researcK around its beneāts, but itÚs not tKe onl\ option.
Cod liver oil contains vitamins A and D in addition to omega 3 Iatt\ acids tKat support brain health. Krill oil has gained traction in recent \ears botK Ior its sustainabilit\ and its bioavailabilit\, according to -osK $xe, '10, &1S, '&, co-founder of Ancient 1utrition and Iounder oI draxe.com. “Krill oil is considered one of the most sustainable sources of omega-3 Iatt\ acids, as $tlantic krill are among the most abundant
animal species in tKe world,Ý explains Dr. Axe. He notes that there are limited studies on bioavailabilit\, but a review oI studies concluded tKat ke\ essential Iatt\ acids are better absorbed from krill oil wKen compared to āsK oil. $notKer variet\ \ou migKt see on the shelves is wild salmon oil, also ricK in omega 3 Iatt\ acids, and since itÚs sourced from wild — not farmed — salmon, itÚs considered to be more sustainable than some other varieties.
And while krill and wild salmon are often noted to be sustainabl\ sourced, it doesnÚt mean tKat regular āsK oil is not. Look for varieties tKat state tKe\ are sustainabl\ caugKt, or denote a geograpKic location where sustainable āsKing is mandated, sucK as 1orwegian or $laskan caugKt āsK.
2. Know the difference between high EPA and DHA formulas. The two major Iatt\ acids Iound in āsK are eicosapentaenoic acid (3$ and docosaKexaenoic acid '+$ Ø and wKile tKe\ botK provide beneāts, you may choose a different ratio oI one over tKe otKer depending on your needs. /aurel Sterling, 5', &'1, national educator Ior &arlson /abs, recommends opting Ior a KigK (3$ Iormulation Ior supporting cardiovascular, joint and skin health. A KigK '+$ Iormulation, sKe suggests, t\picall\ would be suited to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and Ior cKildrenÚs brain and vision development. ,t could also be utilized for supporting cognitive Iunction, nerve KealtK and Ior vision. 5emember tKat most āsK oils tend to Kave more naturall\ occurring (3$ tKan '+$, but most companies now oIIer Iormulations tKat Kave higher concentrations of one or the other.
3. Review thirdparty ratings. Quality is perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a āsK oil × a lower Tualit\ brand tKat uses āllers or additives or tKat ma\ not be at peak freshness may actually do more harm than good. Ü0an\ āsK oils on tKe market today are contaminated with dangerous compounds sucK as mercur\, pesticide residues and hydrogenated oils,Ý according to 'r. $xe. “They can also go rancid Tuickl\, wKicK can cause an
unpleasant taste and can even be harmful to your health.” But you don’t have to weed through brands for freshness and purity yourself – there are third-party organizations that do the legwork for you. The International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS), for example, rates brands on a āve star s\stem and takes into consideration things like omega-3 concentration, oxidation (freshness) and content of heavy metals and other toxins like PCBs and dioxins. We recommend using a brand witK a āve star rating.
4. Get the dosage right.
Keep in mind that if you’re taking āsK oil Ior a speciāc condition, you’ll likely need a higher dose than if you’re taking it for general health. According to Sterling, a good place to start is 1 to 2 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids, 1 gram for general health and 2 grams for speciāc KealtK concerns sucK as an inflammator\ or cardiovascular condition. There are some cases where, she notes, you might even go as high as 4 grams, such as in the case of treating high triglyceride levels, but always check with your doctor when you are considering higher doses, especially if you’re on other medications such as blood thinners. Note that these dosages are for combined EPA, DHA and other omega-3s, so when you’re looking at the label, add up the amount of EPA, DHA and other omega-3s for the total combined amount in the product.
5. Consider the full package. %ecause āsK oils can easil\ go rancid, Dr. Axe recommends opting for a variety that contains antioxidants to keep the product fresh, such as astaxanthin, which is naturally occurring in both krill and wild salmon oil. “This is incredibly important because it helps stabilize the oil and keeps it from going rancid to ensure your product is safe and healthy,” says Dr. Axe. While a regular āsK oil blend ma\ not Kave a naturally occurring antioxidant such as astaxanthin, many companies will add an antioxidant or a blend of antioxidants to preserve the oil. And don’t forget that when it comes to any supplement, you’ll want to consider not only what’s in it, but also what’s not in it: Fillers, additives or allergens such as gluten and soy should all be avoided and could be an indication of a lower-quality product, according to Dr. Axe.