Choosing an Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement

woman on beachI believe one of the keys to enjoying a long and healthful life is a daily program that includes diet, exercise and a regimen of appropriate vitamins, supplements and doctor prescribed medications.

Today I’d like to examine the process of evaluating omega-3 fish oil supplements – products that I believe can enhance and maintain one’s health, and in particular one’s heart health, by potentially reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that individuals with heart disease consume 1000 mg of combined EPA and DHA each day. For those patients who need to lower triglycerides, the AHA recommends 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA daily, provided as an omega-3 fish oil supplement in capsule form, under a physician’s care.

With the growing proliferation of omega-3 fish oil products on the market it’s becoming more vital than ever to be an educated consumer. Here are 5 simple things to look for when evaluating a fish oil supplement.

Get the proper dose of EPA and DHA
Choose a fish oil supplement that provides your target dose of combined DHA and EPA (not ALA, omega-6s, or omega-9s). It’s unfortunate that many supplements claim they contain ‘1000 mg fish oils’; a broad term that often misleads consumers who presume the product contains 1000 mg of essential omega-3s, DHA and EPA.

Look for a fish oil capsule that provides the 3:1 ratio of DHA to EPA that replicates the ratio typically found in healthful fish, such as salmon.

Choose a capsule with enteric coating
Choose a capsule that features enteric coating which enhances absorption and typically eliminates any fishy burp or aftertaste. Rosemary extract and vitamin C may be added for superior antioxidant protection.

Choose a purified product
Search out a supplement that has been refined through a process like supercritical fluid technology — a process that gently extracts omega-3s to produce highly concentrated DHA and EPA while most effectively removing contaminants (PCBs, dioxins, furans, and mercury). Also, look for supplements whose manufacturer is certified by international organizations like EMAS, the European standard for environmental care, or similar organizations.

Keeping it green
Choose a fish oil product made from small, non-endangered species of wild fish, such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel, as opposed to those that may be harvesting endangered or over-harvested larger species. Smaller fish also contain fewer toxins that increase in the flesh of larger predatory fish.

Read That Label
Don’t be fooled by labels that claim “1000 mg Fish Oils” but often contain only 30% of the healthful omega-3s, DHA+EPA. The remaining 70% is unnecessary fat. Study the label’s Supplements Facts. How much DHA and EPA are in one serving? How many soft gels make one serving? You might be surprised to learn that you must take 2, 3, or 4 soft gels to get a full 1000 mg of DHA and EPA. If that’s the case, you are getting too much unwanted fat (which can even translate into unintended weight gain).

In sum, be careful about everything you consume. The old adage, “you are what you eat” is definitely true.

Related: Finding the Right Doctor for You

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3 Comments

  1. Hier September 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Great article about Omega3 fishoil. Where did you get this news from? Have a good one, Matthias!

  2. emily jacob September 26, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Great work. i really enjoy going through your blog.

  3. Shirley November 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    The answer of an expert. Good to hear from you.

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