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What's The Best Fish Oil For You? A Brief Overview of the Selection of Suitable Types of Omega-3 and Fish Oil Supplements

Omega-3 is perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when talking about fish oil supplements. Fish oil is an excellent source of marine omega-3, which is known for its benefit to the heart and brain.

Types Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids available, but they do not provide the same health benefits. Some are found in fish oil, others in plant sources. These are the 3 most popular omega-3 fatty acids that have significant health benefits.1,2

The 3 main types of omega-3 fatty acids are, 

  1. eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  2. docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  3. alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

 

EPA and DHA are both found in fatty cold-water fishes such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines2. The content of omega-3 fatty acids varies greatly depending on the type of fish. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, particularly EPA and DHA are extensively studied and offer more benefits compared to ALA.1 If fatty fish is lacking in your diet, fish oil supplements can be an easy and hassle-free way to ensure you are getting enough of omega-3 fatty acids.

ALA, on the other hand, is found in plant sources such as flaxseed, canola oil, chia seeds and walnuts.2 ALA is considered as a precursor to EPA and DHA.

 

Fish Oil Is Not The Same As Omega-3

Many use the words “fish oil” and “omega-3” interchangeably but fish oil is NOT omega-3. Omega-3 is a type of nutrient, and fish oil is simply the source of the nutrient.2

Fish oil is the fat or oil that is extracted from the fatty tissue of fish. It is usually extracted from fatty cold-water fish. A popular example is cod liver oil. Cod liver oil is a type of fish oil which is extracted from the liver of the fish.

The content of omega-3 fatty acids (including EPA and DHA) varies between fish species and the composition of the diet the fish consumes.2,3

 

Different Forms Of Fish Oil

Fish oil comes in natural and processed forms.

Natural Fish Oil 2,3  

  • Fish oil in its natural form is in the form of free fatty acids, phospholipids, and triglycerides.
  • Fish oil in its natural form is the most easily digested and absorbed
  • The content of omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA varies between fish species and the composition the diet consumed.2,3
  • Natural fish oil also contains vitamins A and D.
  • These natural fish oils are available in capsules or liquid form and may be the best alternative option to eating real fish.

Processed Fish Oil 2,3

  • Occurs in various forms such as re-esterified triglycerides (r-TG) and ethyl ester (EE).
  • It is usually purified and/or concentrated.
  • Purification removes contaminants, such as heavy metals, mercury, and PCBs.
  • The concentration process can increase the content of omega-3 fatty acids and standardise the content of DHA and EPA.4
  • Widely used as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules or soft gel.
  • The most popular form of supplement in the fish oil market as it does not smell or taste like

Recommended Dosage Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

To date, there are no official recommendations for the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

According to the Food and Nutrition Board of Institute of Medicine (IOM), the general recommended intake for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is 1100 mg per day for adult women and 1600 mg per day for adult men.2,5 The IOM has not given an intake recommendation for EPA and DHA.

As EPA and DHA continue to be extensively studied for their potential heart-protective benefits, recent clinical evidence and recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) support the use of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA as dietary supplements for both the general population and individuals at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (such as individuals with obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure) to reduce the likelihood of death risk from heart attack or heart disease.2,5,6  

 

Condition

Recommended intake

General population for heart disease prevention

1000mg of omega-3 fatty acids 6

or

min. of 250 – 500mg EPA + DHA combined 5

Individuals with a high risk of cardiovascular disease, such as those with obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure

People with existing heart diseases (coronary heart disease, heart attack)

1000mg of EPA + DHA combined 2,5

People with high triglyceride levels

4000mg of EPA + DHA combined 2,5

 

What To Look For In Fish Oil Supplements

With so many fish oil supplements available in the market, it can be difficult to choose the right one. Here are some tips to help you find the right fish oil supplements for you.

 

Forms Of Omega-3

Fish oil supplements commonly contain different forms of omega-3 fatty acids, such as natural triglycerides, ethyl esters and re-esterified triglycerides. Some forms are better absorbed than others.3

1. Natural triglycerides (TG)

  • A natural form found in fish oil
  • Easily digested and absorbed1

2. Ethyl esters (EE)

  • Synthesised form from natural triglycerides that allows the manufacturer to alter the concentration of EPA and DHA in the oil
  • Absorption in this form may not be as good as the other natural form 2,3

3. Re-esterified triglycerides (r-TG)

  • The ethyl ester form that is converted back to triglycerides is called re-esterified triglycerides
  • This is an additional step taken by the manufacturer to convert the poorly absorbed EE form back to the synthetic triglyceride form which is well-absorbed 7

 

Choose fish oil supplements in natural triglycerides and re-esterified triglycerides rather than ethyl esters for better absorption rates.

 

Strength Of Omega-3

By now, we know that omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, are the most important types of omega-3. So, it depends on the total strength and the amount of EPA and DHA to get the most health benefits.

A fish oil capsule labelled 1000mg DOES NOT EQUAL contains 1000mg of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).

A 100% natural fish oil capsule most likely contains only 30% of omega-3 fatty acids (varies by fish species). This is because the other 70% consists of other fats.1

Read the label on the back of the bottle carefully to find out how much omega-3, EPA and DHA you get per capsule.

 

Choose an appropriate dosage of Omega-3, EPA and DHA by reading the label, according to your needs

 

To Summarise

Kordel's offers a variety of fish oil supplements in different strengths and forms to meet individual needs. The table below lists the differences between each supplement.

Conclusion

While everyone's need for omega-3 fatty acids is different, a regular fish oil supplement can provide most people with the nutrients they need. If your health condition requires a higher dose of omega-3 fatty acids, a high-strength fish oil may be a practical option for you. By taking your fish oil supplement with a fatty meal, you can also maximize the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids.8 This is a simple and effective way to increase your omega-3 intake and prevent the onset of numerous diseases.

 

References

  1. 12 Important Benefits of Fish Oil, Based on Science. (2023). Retrieved 29 August 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-fish-oil#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3
  2. Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids. (2023). Retrieved 29 August 2023, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/#h2
  3. Omega-3 Supplement Guide: What to Buy and Why. (2023). Retrieved 29 August 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-supplement-guide#natural-fish-oil
  4. Fish Oil: EE vs. TG omega-3s - which is better? . (2023). Retrieved 29 August 2023, from https://www.sciencebasedhealth.com/Fish-Oil-EE-vs-TG-omega-3s-which-is-better-W119.aspx
  5. How Much Omega-3 Should You Take per Day?. (2023). Retrieved 30 August 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-omega-3#general-guidelines
  6. Kris-Etherton, P. M., Richter, C. K., Bowen, K. J., Skulas-Ray, A. C., Jackson, K. H., Petersen, K. S., & Harris, W. S. (2019). Recent Clinical Trials Shed New Light on the Cardiovascular Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Methodist DeBakey Cardiovascular Journal, 15(3), 171-178. https://doi.org/10.14797/mdcj-15-3-171
  7. Neubronner J, Schuchardt JP, Kressel G, Merkel M, von Schacky C, Hahn A. Enhanced increase of omega-3 index in response to long-term n-3 fatty acid supplementation from triacylglycerides versus ethyl esters. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Feb;65(2):247-54. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2010.239. Epub 2010 Nov 10. PMID: 21063431.
  8. Lawson LD, Hughes BG. Absorption of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from fish oil triacylglycerols or fish oil ethyl esters co-ingested with a high-fat meal. BiochemBiophysRes Commun. 1988 Oct 31;156(2):960-3.

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