Omega 3 supplements are not created equal

I have fish on my mind this morning, as I had leftover salmon for breakfast.  So here are a few tips and thoughts on Omega 3 supplements, in bullet point format:

  • There are seven important factors to consider when choosing a fish oil: purity, freshness, potency, nutrients, bioavailability, sustainability, and cost.
  • Not all fish oils are created equal.  It is important to do our homework and make an informed choice.  Many fish oils are oxidized or made with poor quality ingredients, and may therefore actually cause health problems, instead of solving them.
  • The potency of fish oil products depends not only on the levels of EPA and DHA, but also upon the molecular structure of the fats in the oil, which in turn affects absorption.
  • We need to screen for purification processes involving the mercury content of fish oils, even if obtained from wild-caught fish such as Alaskan salmon.
  • Natural fish oils are better absorbed than farmed fish oils.  Preliminary evidence suggests that krill oil may be better absorbed than ordinary fish oil, and some studies suggest that krill oil, though pricey, may be more effective for reducing inflammation.
  • Many fish oils are made from fish that are endangered, so if this is an ethical consideration for you, you may want to choose products made from fish that are certified by organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
  • Try to avoid Omega 3 supplements from non-marine sources, e.g. yeast; they are poorly absorbed and not as effective.
  • I don’t usually endorse a specific product or manufacturer, but my personal recommendation for the best available Omega 3 supplement is krill oil.  Although it is more expensive than ordinary fish oil, it is better absorbed and can therefore be taken in smaller doses.  The fish oil supplement that I personally take is actually from Costco: “Schiff Mega Red” Krill Oil, which has the added benefit of containing high-content phospholipids and astaxanthin that protect the health of our cell membranes, as well as specific organs such as our eyes.
  • In the final analysis, the best Omega 3 supplement of all is manufactured by Mother Nature, i.e. consume more wild sustainably-caught fish such as salmon and sardines (at least 3 times a week), just like centenarians in the Mediterranean, instead of sustaining the profitability of supplement manufacturers.


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