Fish oils contain long chain omega-3 oils which have been shown in randomized clinical trials to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, in particular by preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Fish oils also reduce inflammation and are being studied for a large list of important medical indications, including arthritis and joint pain, macular degeneration, blood sugar regulation, memory loss and cognitive decline, and during pregnancy to optimize fetal brain formation.
Caution! Many brands of fish oil sold on the market today are very poor quality (likely rancid and potentially harmful) and should be avoided. Tips to finding a good quality fish oil product are outlined below.
What are signs of good quality fish oil? Follow these six steps to ensure quality.
- Good quality fish oil is usually offered as a liquid in a glass bottle, or the same oil in a capsule. If it is too rancid to be swallowed by a teaspoon, likely it won’t promote health.
- With fish oil in a capsule, when you buy a new bottle of capsules, prick the capsule with a needle and taste a few drop of the oil. It will taste like fish but it should have an acceptable taste; it should not taste rancid. Some brands have lemon flavoring (a nice thing) but that won’t be able to mask bad fish oil.
- Check the potency. The primary benefits come from EPA and DHA, not other omega-3 fats. So confirm that the omega-3 content is at least 75-80% EPA and DHA. EPA can convert to DHA, but DHA can’t convert to EPA, so generally it should have more EPA than DHA.
- Do you have the option of getting your fish oil with vitamin D and vitamin K? Vitamins D & K are essential vitamins for health, and very conveniently they can be added to your fish oil capsule, taking up minimal space but enhancing their absorption by having them dissolved in an oil base. If you already get your vitamin D and K from your multivitamin, then you don’t need this option.
What should be the ratio of EPA to DHA?
This is an excellent question, and the truth is that we haven’t done detailed clinical research to answer it properly. Most research has been done with high quality fish oil which contains approximately 600 mg of EPA and 400 mg of DHA per 1,200 mg of omega-3 oil.
Yet, there are several theoretical advantages of using a higher ratio of EPA to DHA. First EPA converts naturally into DHA, while the reverse occurs minimally. Second, EPA has much higher anti-inflammatory and triglyceride lower capacity than DHA. So if your goal is to lower inflammation and/or improve your cholesterol/triglyceride profile, using a higher ratio of EPA to DHA is a good thing.
What are good quality sources of fish oil (omega-3 fats)?
High quality fish oil (omega-3 oil) products recommend by the Ten Years Younger Program include:
- Super EPA Pro (1000 mg oil with 650 mg EPA + 100 mg DHA per capsule, by Thorne Research) in a very small pill I should add!
- Super EPA (1000 mg oil with 425 mg EPA + 270 mg DHA per capsule, by Thorne Research)
- Omega Avail with D3, K2, & lipase (1200 mg fish oil with 540-600 mg EPA + 370-400 mg DHA + 1000 IU vitamin D3 + 525 mcg vitamin K per 2 capsules by Designs for Health).
- EPA-DHA Liquid. (high concentrate liquid oil by Metagenics) 1 tsp (5 ml) contains 2,800 mg fish oil with 1,400 mg EPA + 925 mg DHA.
- Multivitamin with bone support (contains Omega Avail)
- Multivitamin with arthritis support (contains Omega Avail with D3, K2, & lipase)
- Multivitamin with joint support (contains Omega Avail with D3, K2, & lipase)