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How to Choose the Best Fish Oil Supplement Brand Safely, Effectively and Easily

Updated on May 5, 2012

Fish oil has many recognized health benefits, ranging from a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease to improved focus and moods for people with ADHD, depression and cognitive disorders. There are plenty of supplements on the market to choose from, but not all of them are the same. By shopping smart, consumers can find the best fish oil supplement brand for their needs without too much trial and error.

Reducing Mercury Risk

Some fish oil supplements carry a risk of mercury contamination. This heavy metal can cause neurological problems and builds up in the body over time. The risk is higher in oil that comes from large, predatory species such as tuna, shark and swordfish. That's because these fish eat many smaller organisms, acquiring the other fishes' mercury load in their diet. Smaller or less predatory oily fish carry a reduced risk of contamination. Modern processing methods can also help cut down on the mercury risk of fish oil supplements.

Decreasing Organochlorine Risk

Organochlorines are toxic chemicals that come from pesticides and other substances. When they leach into the water, they can eventually find their way into fish and other aquatic life. In some cases, especially when a processor uses older methods of extracting fish oil, the supplement can carry the contamination over from the fish. Contamination risk is also higher in oils extracted from the fish liver only, since this organ is responsible for removing toxins from the animal's blood. To avoid organochlorines and similar contaminants, consumers should look for distilled or ultra-refined oil.

Cholesterol Levels

Like other animal fats, rendered fish oil contains large amounts of cholesterol, which can damage heart health. Pharmaceutical grade oils that have been distilled or fractionated contain far less cholesterol, increasing their cardiovascular benefits and reducing the risk for people who have previously been diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Vitamin A Content

The vitamin A content of certain types of fish oil can be highly beneficial for some patients. It can be a problem for others, especially those who need to take large amounts of fish oil as part of treatment for ADHD or other conditions. Oil made primarily from the liver of fatty fish contains large amounts of the active form of vitamin A, which can be poisonous if taken in strong doses.

Consistent Dosage

Not every fish oil supplement contains consistent levels of vitamins and other nutrients. Inexpensive brands may use any kind of fish that's cost-effective, resulting in variable levels of beneficial ingredients. Consumers should look for products that include their EPA, DHA and ALA levels on the packaging, as well as their percentage of vitamin A and other nutrients.

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