WHY DO SOME FISH OILS WORK BETTER THAN OTHERS?

The interest in fish oil began when researchers observed a lower mortality from heart disease among the Inuit in Greenland, who have a diet high in fish and other marine animals (the “Eskimo diet”).

Since then, fish oil has been linked to a long list of beneficial properties such as reducing triglycerides, lowering blood pressure, improving heart rate, enhancing immunity, boosting brain function, and relieving inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.

In Australia, fish oil is the second most commonly taken dietary supplement, being consumed by around 12% of the population.

Fish oil contains omega-3 essential fatty acids 

Omega-3 is a type of essential polyunsaturated fatty acid. Since our bodies cannot produce omega-3, it must come from the food we eat, and is therefore called essential fatty acid. Fish oil is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids; however, vegetarians can obtain omega-3 from flaxseeds, canola oil, soybean, walnuts, and dark leafy vegetables.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory

The two main types of omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). They come from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies.

DHA is found at very high concentrations in the retina and in the brain, and as such is important for visual development and brain function, especially in childhood due to the rapid growth of the brain.

This is why there are specific DHA supplements for babies, such as Nordic Naturals Baby’s DHA, made from 100% wild Arctic cod, and Bioceuticals UltraClean DHA Omega, for use in pregnancy, to support healthy brain, eye, and nervous system function.

What to look for on the label?

The big number that you see on the front label is the total amount of fish oil that the supplement contains, usually around 1000-2000mg (1-2g). However, what you should really look for is the amount of EPA and DHA, which is the actual omega-3 content of the supplement. The greater amount of EPA and DHA in your fish oil supplement, the more potent it is, the greater anti-inflammatory benefits you will see, and the less capsules you will need to swallow.

For high potency supplements, look for fish oil capsules that contain more than 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA per 1000mg of fish oil, such as in Bioceuticals UltraClean EPA/DHA Plus – each capsule contains 300mg EPA and 200mg DHA per 1000mg (1g) of fish oil.

Capsules vs. liquid

This is a matter of personal preference. Here are some points to consider:

  • Convenience

Liquid – needs to be refrigerated to maintain freshness, which is difficult to do when travelling. Capsules – do not need refrigeration although it is a good idea if you

  • Absorption

Generally, fish oil is absorbed better in the presence of a high-fat meal. Liquid – absorbed faster than capsules as can enteric-coated capsules, as in BioCeuticals UltraClean EPA/DHA Plus which promote optimal absorption in the small intestines.

  • Potency

Liquid – highly potent, therefore you would need to take less for the correct dosage. For example, Ethical Nutrients Hi Strength Liquid Fish Oil contains 1.9 g EPA, and 927 mg DHA in 5 mL (1 metric teaspoon), so you would only need to take one metric teaspoon per day.

Capsules – less potent as it is not possible to have such high amount of oil inside one capsule

  • Texture/size

Liquid – swallowing oil can be enough to make some people gag.

Capsules – some are huge and are not suitable for people who have difficulty swallowing.

  • Taste

Liquid – always have some taste, which you may not necessarily like. Fish oil usually goes through deodorising process to remove any fishy taste. Ethical Nutrients Hi Strength Liquid Fish Oil comes in deodorised fruit punch flavour or fresh mint flavour.

Capsules – can be odourless, burpless and tasteless. BioCeuticals UltraClean EPA/DHA Plus are flavoured with vanillin to minimise fishy aftertaste.

The bottom line

The Heart Foundation recommends eating fish and seafood 2–3 times a week as part of a heart-healthy diet. However, if you don’t eat enough fish or other seafood you may need a high-quality fish oil supplement. Look for high potency fish oil, and take it with food, preferably with meal that contains some fat.

Please note: Practitioner products are only available through recommendation from your doctor or naturopath

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