How to Choose Between Types and Brands of Fish Oil Supplements

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan, one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

Choose brands of fish oil supplements carefully.
Choose brands of fish oil supplements carefully. | Source

What is Fish Oil?

You've probably heard about fish oil from your family physician or friends who are health enthusiasts. They may have even encouraged you to take fish oil as a supplement. So, what is fish oil? Fish oil is derived from the tissue of oily fish. Oily fish include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. They are also known as "cold-water" fish because they live near freezing waters and therefore have a thick layer of fat to preserve their body temperature. The fat they produce are the most beneficial to health.

Fat? If you think dietary fat is your enemy, think again! Contrary to what you've been told, dietary fat is not your enemy. The "No Fat" or "Low Fat" diet is a diet of the past, though there is some legitimacy to those concepts. During those fads, more and more people were opting for fast foods, as well as pre-packaged, processed, and refined foods. These fast foods contain "trans" or "hydrogenated" fats which are chemically processed and unnatural fats to preserve foods. Many health risks are a result of these unnatural fats such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. However, fish oil's Omega-3 is essential to your health and actually provide you with great benefits. Keep reading.

Benefits of Fish Oil

Benefits of healthy fats include:

  • formation of cell membranes, brain, and nervous system
  • balance of hormones
  • promotion of a healthy immune system
  • keeping inflammation low

Omega-3 fatty acids can even heal and prevent the following:

  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoporosis
  • pre-menstrual cramps
  • macular degeneration
  • mental disorders and diseases
  • weight loss

Essential Fatty Acids: EPA and DHA

Cold-water fish contain Omega-3, which is an essential fatty acid, for your body. It is broken down into two important types called EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) which are very beneficial to your health. Interestingly, Omega-3 fatty acids are so essential because of their incorporation into your body's cells. They keep them "fluid" which promote a host of benefits to you and your health. Examples include:

  • When brain cell membranes are more fluid, messages from neurochemicals (i.e., serotonin) can be transmitted more easily resulting in better brain function and mood.
  • When muscle cell membranes are more fluid, insulin sensitivity is increased.

These essential fatty acids also play a role in the cardiovascular system, nervous system, and immune functions. Research even shows that DHA promotes better memory, concentration, and moods. It can even help deter and improve Alzheimer's disease. To your right is a list of other benefits of Omega-3's essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.

Fish oil quality comes from smaller fish such as sardines that have fewer contaminants.
Fish oil quality comes from smaller fish such as sardines that have fewer contaminants. | Source

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Fish Oil Quality

When opting for a fish oil supplement, quality is extremely important. Like any other supplement, the quality of fish oil varies widely between products. Low quality fish oil can actually be harmful to your health as they are oxidized and made with poor quality ingredients. If you cannot afford to include a quality fish oil in your diet, then it's better to not include one at all. Following are a few things to check for when opting for fish oil:

  • Purity - Fish oil must meet international standards for heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins, and other contaminants. Be careful as some manufacturers claim they do but really do not. Fish products of the purest quality are stamped with the AOAC (Association of Official Agricultural Chemists) International.
  • Freshness - Because Omega-3 is susceptible to oxidation, they can go rancid quickly. Make sure you check expiration dates and store your fish oil as directed on the packaging. By taking rancid fish oil, you could be jeopardizing your health more than helping it.
  • Potency - Make sure fish oil has an adequate amount of EPA and DHA levels. If it doesn't have the right amounts, you won't receive the desired anti-inflammatory effect that you're taking it for in the first place. High Omega-3 content should contain at least 30% EPA and DHA. Look for one where it adds up to one gram of Omega-3 per fish oil capsule.
  • Bio-availability - Opt for "natural" fish oil rather than "purified" fish oil as it will be more easily absorbed.
  • Sustainability - Endangered species of fish should be avoided. Opt for fish oil from salmon, anchovy, and sardines.
  • Cost - To be practical, fish oil must be relatively affordable.


Types of fish oil: liquid and capsules.
Types of fish oil: liquid and capsules. | Source

NOTE: Enteric Coated Capsules.

Enteric coating was designed to prevent a fish aftertaste. However, Consumer Reports (2011) found that the enteric coating was not being absorbed properly in many brands. Instead of breaking up in the small intestine where it should, it was disintegrating in the stomach.

Recommendation is to opt for soft-coated capsules or liquid when looking for a fish oil supplement. High quality fish oils rarely have an aftertaste.

Types of Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil supplements come in many forms: liquid, capsules, soft gels, or chewable soft gels. Choosing the type of fish oil supplement is your preference. If you are concerned about the absorption of capsules, you may opt for liquid. Though the thought of liquid fish oil may not sound appetizing, it's not as bad as you may imagine. There are quality brands that actually have flavored their fish oil which helps with taste. If you are one who has difficulty swallowing capsules, then you may want to opt for liquid as well. Capsules may be your choice if you are looking for convenience of transport. They can easily be taken to work or stashed in your purse or luggage when you are away from home as well.

Once the packaging of the fish oil supplements has been opened, it is more vulnerable to go rancid. Therefore, make sure you store it in a dark cool area as light, air, and heat speeds up the oxidization process. Liquids require refrigeration storage.

Fish Oil Reviews

"I have tried many brands of fish oil. Also, I've tried the enteric coated, soft gels, and liquid. Personally, I never liked the enteric coated capsules because they were hard and difficult to swallow. Certain brands of soft gels also had a fishy aftertaste even though I kept them in a dark cool place to store. After much research, I found a couple of brands that are continuously tested by AOAC International with its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland. AOAC International is a non-profit organization that publishes standardized, chemical analysis methods designed to increase confidence in results of chemical and microbiologic analyses. Because of their reputation, I have only opted for fish oils with their stamp of approval. After reading tons of fish oil reviews on Carlson Labs fish oils, I have only used their fish oil in liquid. I was a bit concerned because it was a liquid, but they have flavored liquids in orange and lemon. Both are palatable. My other concern was a fishy aftertaste or burps. I get neither from Carlson Labs. In my opinion, it is the highest quality fish oil supplement on the market." ~Abby Campbell

Best Fish Oil Brands

According to Consumer Reports (2011), the following 9 brands have passed their tests for contaminants, spoilage, and disintegration. However, the bolded brands are the ones that have passed exams by the AOAC.

  • Barlean's Organic Oils EPA-DHA
  • Carlson Omega-3 Gems
  • Finest Natural
  • Nature Made 1,200 mg
  • Nature's Way Fisol
  • Norwegian Gold Ultimate Critical Omega
  • Spring Valley Omega-3
  • The Vitamin Shoppe Meg-3 EPA-DHA
  • Walgreens Omega-3 Concentrate

Nordic Naturals is also a brand that passes the AOAC. However, Consumer Reports could not test it properly due to its added lemon extract for flavoring.

Please note that this listing is a short list. There may be other fish oil supplements on the market that are quality products. Be sure to use the qualification test in this article to find the best fish oil brands.

Fish Oil for Weight Loss

Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to help with weight loss by improving insulin sensitivity and using stored body fat for energy.

How Much Fish Oil

Take fish oil with meals for best absorption. Two to three grams of total Omega-3 is how much fish oil you should take per day. Split the dosage into two or three times per day, approximately one gram at each meal.

POLL

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Conclusion

Now you know how to look for a high quality fish oil brand and what type you should look for in a supplement. Just remember to always check with your health physician before taking any supplements if you have a medical condition. Though fish oil has plenty of health benefits, it may not interact well with your medication and can either heighten or decrease your medication's effects.

Tell Us What You Think

You're reading "How to Choose Between Types and Brands of Fish Oil Supplements" by Abby Campbell. Please leave a comment and tell us what you think below. Then share the article with your family and friends. You may even share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest (buttons to your right).

Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author. For the past 10 years, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Her clients have lost thousands of pounds, reclaimed health, and call her “Coach No Gimmick.” She is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. Abby has been married for 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 19 year cancer survivor.

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Comments 20 comments

Kathryn Stratford profile image

Kathryn Stratford 3 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

I saw the link to this at the bottom of the "Natural Foods" hub, and considering our earlier conversation about Fish Oil, this was a very useful article for me to read! Thank you for sharing this information with us.

I bought Fish Oil fairly recently, and fortunately it is one on your list. That makes me feel good! I didn't actually put too much research into my choice, initially, I just went with a familiar brand (Nature Made, 1200 mg). I hadn't really thought about the benefits until my brother suggested I take them (to help with my joints?) .

Now that I know what some of the benefits are, I will get in the habit of taking them regularly. Thanks again!

~ Kathryn


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Oh, good, Kathryn! I'm glad you find my hub here. I didn't even think to suggest it to you yesterday when we were discussing fish oils. LOL. Yes, fish oils have so many wonderful benefits, and I'm so happy you'll be taking them now. Your brother is also right in that it does help with joints as well. ;)


Annette 3 years ago

Thank You Abby for this helpful column! It was very informative. I have never taken fish oil pills until 30 days ago. It seems to have helped my mood and anxiety. Being that my cholesterol is 220, I was offered a free bottle of Nordic Naturals lemon flavor Ultimate Omega fish oil just to do a survey. So I am hooked, but the only problem is that this particular brand is very expensive. So thanks to your article, I will look for a much cheaper bottle of fish oil. You also recommend to take 2-3 grams daily but, the Nordic only shows total Omega-3s 1280 mg. Is this good enough? Thank You...............Annette


J L Manion 3 years ago

This article answered all the questions I had about fish oil. Although I have been taking this supplement for over a year, I now know I have made the right choice in my purchase. Thanks for the information.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi Annette. I apologize for not responding sooner, as I didn't see your comment until now. That's great that you received Nordic's fish oil for free! They are a great brand. And, YES, it is expensive. I think all the really good fish oils are expensive. With regards to the dosage, I would say the 1,280 is minimum for intake. If you want to experiment by doubling, you can for a time and see if you feel any benefits. If not, reduce back down to the 1,280. Thank you so much for commenting. :-)


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for stopping by and commenting, J L Manion. I'm glad I was able to answer all of your questions. Also, I'm glad you made the right decision in your choice. :-)


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Love the professionalism in your articles. Thanks for the advice about fish oil. Just this morning I spoke with a friend who participated in a study about the effect on fish oil on cancer. It didn't work for him. He explained that all fish oils are not equal. Voted Up!


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you, Ms. Dora. That is interesting about the study your friend participated in. You've piqued my interest now on fish oil's effect on cancer. I will have to get into my scientific medical journals and see what comes up. I appreciate your comment! :-)


Esmeowl12 profile image

Esmeowl12 3 years ago from Sevierville, TN

I really appreciate this hub. I knew fish oil was good for you and take it regularly but there was a lot of information here that I didn't know. Thanks.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Your welcome, Esmeow12. I'm glad I could be of some help to you. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. :-)


epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

I've been taking it for about a year now and it is awesome. I also give it to my dogs as well. I love it! Great hub.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Good morning, epbooks. Glad to hear you're taking it and like it. LOL on giving it to your dogs. I bet it helps them have nice shiny coats as well. :-)


mehr 3 years ago

Hi Abby, I am a veggie and was considering opti3 omega, which is derived from marine algae. What are your thoughts on this? Is it as beneficial as a fish oil supplement? Thank you.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi merh. I have not looked at opti3 omega, but I will get back to you when I have time to check it out. :-)


Little Red Riding Hood 3 years ago

Hi Abby,

Many thanks for your extensive and helpful article! I take a fish oil supplement made of Antarctic Krill Euphausia superba, which you haven't mentioned in your article. What are your takes on it?

Thank you


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi Little Red Riding Hood. I believe krill oil is wonderful. However, I didn't mention it because it's becoming less available to make supplements with. Thank you for commenting and have a wonderful evening. :-)


Glutathione PRO profile image

Glutathione PRO 2 years ago

Went through the article and comments, you did a fantastic job with this hub! Choosing the right fish oil supplement is a popular dilemma these days, considering there is a "sea" of different supplements.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much for your comment, Gluthathione PRO! :-)


Lisa Shepard 2 years ago

Hello Abby,

I did love your article and since you seem like quite an expert I have a question for you. is there a very easy to swallow pill as most Omega 3 supplements are very large. A recommendation would be great

Another question. If liquid is great and easily absorbed why do you think that a capsule that disintegrates in the stomach and not the intestine would reduce absorption? The Omega 3 should survive the stomachs the liquid would

My last is a remark that studies show Omega 3 can be very helpful for stabilizing body weight which is so vital for cancer patents among others

So please add that

Thanks you so Much and hope I get your response on small easy to swallow pills


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi Lisa. Thank you for your comments. :-)

As far as an easy-to-swallow Omega-3 "pill," I can't really tell you what would be easy for you personally. What is easy for one person may not be so easy for another. You may have to try different brands and types of capsules to find one that works for you. Soft-coated capsules should be easier to swallow than enteric-coated capsules (enteric-coated capsules are hard). Liquid may also be an option for you. Carlson Labs makes a quality liquid fish oil that you may opt for. There is really no fishy taste, nor "fishy" belching, with Carlson's.

As far as your question regarding the disintegration of fish oil, many "enteric-coated" capsules were disintegrating in the stomach rather than in the small intestine. Studies such as published in the journal, "Digestive Diseases and Sciences," showed that absorption rate is 300 times higher in the small intestines than in the stomach. Additionally, it's also beneficial for you (the consumer) for the fish oil to be absorbed in the small intestines, as you may get unwanted "fishy" burps and reflux when it is mixed with stomach acids.

I hope this helps. Again, thank you for your comments.

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