In Omega-3 Part One I talked about the many reasons you need omega-3 fats.
Fish oil contains long-chain omega-3 fats in the form of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid DHA.) These long-chain fats have been linked to benefits in heart health, vision, brain function and immune diseases, just to name a few. Vegan sources of omega-3 fats (such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts) are also very important for health and deliver omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (LNA). While it’s true your body can convert the LNA in vegan foods into EPA and DHA, it takes extremely large amounts of LNA intake to yield adequate amounts of EPA and DHA for optimal health. Importantly, many of the studies showing the benefit of omega-3 fats are specific to EPA and DHA. Supplementing your diet with high-quality fish oil is a cost-effective and highly efficient way to get the EPA and DHA your body needs to function best.
Are Fish Oil Supplements Safe?
I realize a lot of people interested in “clean eating” are concerned about the toxins in fish (and fish oil) these days. As a consumer, it’s important to realize not all fish oils are created equal.
My husband and I have been taking pharmaceutical-grade fish oil for years now; we buy a physician’s formula in bulk for our family but we also give it to my parents, Norm and Gail and to Andy’s parents, Elaine and Ken. Norm and Ken are both big on saving money so it seems once every six months or so one of them will stop by with some super cheap fish oil they got on sale at Wal-Mart. They want to know why the fish oil for $5.99 isn’t any good.
Here’s the deal: you get what you pay for. Without a doubt, some fish oils are more pure (not to mention fresher and better tasting!) than others. However, when it comes to choosing fish oil supplements, there is a wide range of quality markers and standards. If you know what to look for you’ll be able to make an informed choice.
What Should You Look for In a Fish Oil Supplement?
Look for a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil that has been molecularly distilled and tested for purity by an independent third party testing organization. By comparing the test results for purity and freshness levels from different brands you can differentiate lower quality fish oils from high quality fish oils. Specifically, you want to choose a brand that contains less than 10 ppb (parts per billion) for mercury and lead and less than .5 ppt (parts per trillion) for PCB’s and dioxins.
Is Something Fishy Going On?
Freshness is a key factor in choosing a high quality fish oil. Keep in mind, the omega-3 fats in fish can oxidize easily if not handled properly and oxidized oils can potentially be very harmful. A “fishy” taste is a tip off that your fish oil supplement isn’t up to snuff in the freshness department. If your fish oil supplement has a “fishy” taste you absolutely don’t want to take it.
Check for third party testing for results of peroxide levels (measuring current oxidation) and anisidine values (measuring past oxidation). The anisidine and peroxide values combine for a TOTOX or “total oxidation value”. Look for companies with a TOTOX value of less than 26.0 meq/ kg —the lower the number the fresher the fish oil. Exceptional freshness will ensure a good taste. A high-quality fresh fish oil should not leave any nasty fishy aftertaste and you shouldn’t get that terrible fish burp.
How is the Fish Oil Processed?
The omega-3 fats in fish are extremely delicate and can easily be damaged by improper processing. You want to look for a supplement that does not include oxygen, excessive heat or chemicals in processing. Oils that have been nitrogen-flushed and without oxygen will prevent oxidative rancidity.
Make Sure Your Fish Oil Supplement Contains Enough EPA & DHA
The entire reason you are taking the fish oil supplement in the first place is for the EPA and DHA. However, it’s important to know the total omega-3 fatty acid content splashed on the labels of bottles is not equivalent to total EPA and DHA content. If the label claims “2 pills contain 2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids” this does not necessarily mean you are getting 2,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA. Read the labels carefully. Add up the total amount of EPA and DHA found in each serving.
For example, if the front of the label reads “2,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids” but the back side states one serving contains 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA, you are only getting 600 total mg of combined EPA and DHA. Products containing a lower concentration of EPA and DHA mean you have to take more pills to get the required level of EPA and DHA. Be sure you get what you are pay for.
What Fish Oil Supplement Do We Take?
Although I’m sure other high-quality fish oil supplements exist, we haven’t had the time to spend researching them all. However, we did our research on Nordic Naturals (www.NordicNaturals.com) years ago when we wrote our first book, The Gold Coast Cure.
Since we don’t have our own brand of nutrition supplements, we knew health product reviews of name brand products would be helpful to our readers. Nordic Naturals was a company a lot of doctors were behind and sure enough, our research proved it to be a superior quality product.
We’ve been taking Nordic Naturals now for years now and not only have we been happy with their products but when Andy recommends it to his patients they all give the product a five star review (which is hard to come by for fish oils supplements!) As for dosage, Andy doesn’t have any underlying health problems so he takes just 1,000 mg a day. I take 2,000 mg each day.
Enter to WIN a Gift Basket Valued at $ 88 with Pharmaceutical-Grade Fish Oil
Our favorite brand of pharmaceutical-grade fish oil (www.NordicNaturals.com) will be giving the winner of our contest a gift basket valued at $88. The contest ends September 30, 2010.
PRIZE INCLUDES: One bottle each of the following Nordic Naturals products: Ultimate Omega, Arctic Cod Liver Oil, Children’s DHA, Vitamin D and other fun swag in a Nordic Naturals bag!
To enter the contest follow these simple steps:
- Send me an email at [email protected] nominating someone you think would benefit from the fish oil.
- Check back on September 30th and we will announce the winner!
- To claim your prize you will then need to email us your name and full address. GOOD LUCK! =)
UPDATE ON CONTEST WINNER! Congratulations to Pamela Thelan!! And to all of you who gave us your submissions, thank you so so much. We had too many good nominations to pick the winner based on the stories so we put the best submissions in a hat and picked blindly. It was the only way we could do it. We will have another contest soon so please stay tuned!!