Fish oil is an excellent supplement for omega-3 for it contains both EPA and DHA – the essential nutrients. Fish oil supplements are usually made from salmon, sardines, anchovy, mackerel, albacore, Hoki and krill. A daily intake of fish oil supplements reduces the risk of contracting heart diseases, reduces blood cholesterol levels, improves eyesight, slows clogging of arteries, lowers blood pressure, etc. Those who do not eat fish regularly can take a fish oil supplement. Hence, the process of selecting fish oil supplements is important.
Selecting a Fish Oil Supplement
The choice of which type of fish oil supplement to select depends on the cost to a great extent and the number of pills you are willing to take. In the US, the Council Responsible for Nutrition (CRN) has set specific standards. However, these standards are voluntary and often violated in the bid to garner the lucrative omega-3 supplement market. A nonprofit organization called ‘Environmental Defense’ makes use of the CRN criteria to list the best and worst fish oil supplements. This can be viewed at their website and you can refer this to get the best option. Among the top 16 brands it has been found that there is very little difference in quality and you can opt for the least expensive option.
Here are some tips when selecting fish oil supplements that could prove useful.
- Since there is no standard pharmaceutical-grade supplement, choose one that has undergone a molecular distillation process. This is said to remove all contaminants.
- Fish oil must contain anti-oxidants for it gets oxidized and rancid very quickly. Vitamin E is a valuable addition to all fish oil supplements.
- Make sure the product you buy has a label stating it has undergone proper testing. E.g. United States Pharmacopeia (USP) marks.
- Make sure of the expiry date.
Those who have a problem with the ‘fishy’ aftertaste can use the following tips:
- Choose fish oil that is flavored (e.g. berry or citrus flavors) and odorless. These are slightly more expensive but worth it if it makes you comfortable.
- Refrigerate the pills and take them before bedtime.
- Take them prior to a meal with very little liquid. This enables the fish oil to mix with food, does not leave an aftertaste and gets digested sooner.
- Avoid carbonated drinks
- As a last resort, lie down on your left side for at least 10 minutes after taking your capsule. This position helps to drain out the fish oil into the intestine quickly.
- Selecting fish oil supplements with marine lipid concentrates gives you greater quantity of EPA+DHA per pill. Although you will pay more for these, you will need to take less number of capsules per day.
- Krill oil got from a small shrimp-like crustacean is said to contain the best source of omega-3 of all marine sources. What is more, krill being small has the lowest contamination levels and phospholipids that is another excellent fat.
The best way of selecting fish oil supplement is by going about the process in a systematic and scientific manner. Find out how much omega-3 is found in different fish species and choose the supplement that has the richest source. Do not buy a supplement that does not mention the type of fish used. This will only mean that the producer is hiding some information. Next find out if the fish used is safe to consume.
Avoid shark or seal oil for these are large sea creatures, and retain more mercury in their bodies. They also consume other fish and hence have greater mercury. The higher up the food chain a marine creature is, the greater is the environmental contaminants it will carry in its body. The best fish oil supplements come from tiny fish that eat plants – e.g. anchovy, mackerel and sardine. Apart from being tiny, they do not live long and hence they are less contaminated.
Using the USP mark ensures that the fish oil supplement does not contain harmful contaminant levels, the product has been manufactured according to US FDA regulations and that the capsule will be absorbed and released at a specific time into the body to provide maximum benefits.
Most people talk about ALA, DHA and EPA when referring to omega-3 fatty acids. Little do we realize that although these are the shining stars, there are other omega-3 acids that are also required like ETA, ETA (3), HPA, DPA and SDA. When a fish oil supplement contains all these elements in a balanced ratio, then it is very powerful source of omega-3.
Manufacturers are not required to supply all information about the level of contaminants in their pills. For people who are very particular, they can buy fish oil supplements that are third-party tested, request a certificate of analysis from the manufacturer, buy a DHA algae oil or buy pharmaceutical grade oil.
Precautions while selecting fish oil Supplement
Those who are prone to seafood allergies; suffer from low blood pressure; have congestive heart failure; insufficient blood being pumped to the heart and chronic angina must not take fish oil supplements. Make sure the supplement has equal amounts of EPA and DHA – at least 250-500mg. Do not take more than 3g / day. Always check with a doctor for the quantity needed by you. Get rid of all fish oil capsules if they have a bad smell and definitely after the expiration date. Those who are on blood thinning medication and are due for surgery must inform their doctors about this.
The most important aspect when selecting fish oil supplement is to check its purity and content. Purity means that it must be free of mercury, dioxins, Furans, PCBs and heavy metals like cadmium, arsenic and lead. So, it is important to select fish oil by that has gone through the high-tech molecular distillation process. Some experts suggest that eating a fish oil supplement is safer than consuming whole fish because of this contamination. So, follow some tips and select a safe supplement.