Omega 3 Fatty Acids – The benefits of taking fish oil and finding the best fish oil supplement
Fish oil is commonly sought after, particularly in supplement form, as a source of omega 3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)), nutrients required by the body to maintain proper health. There is currently much dialog regarding the potential fish oil benefits by increasing one’s daily intake of omega 3 fatty acids, and while these essential fats are dietarily available in many foods, fish oil supplements are a common source of omega 3s for many individuals.
Why fish oil?
There are many reasons why fish oil supplements are an effective way to increase one’s daily intake of omega 3 fatty acids instead of relying on one’s diet. For many people, ensuring that one eats the right foods daily to meet one’s omega 3 requirements is not an easy task. Fish oil pills are an easy and inexpensive way to ensure that one’s needs are met. Seafood can be expensive, and not everyone wants to put ground flax seed one their yogurt every morning. One or two fish oil supplements per day will go a long way towards maintaining the recommended levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the body. By choosing the best fish oil for one’s lifestyle (fish oil is available as a stand alone product, or combined with many other nutrients as well) a person may reap the benefits of a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids without having to buy expensive foods, or those that they may not even enjoy eating. There is also evidence that fish oil has a much greater affect on the omega 3 levels in the body, as attested by a study published in 2002 in the Journal of The American College of Nutrition (see sources). The study affirmed the previously suspected poor conversion of plant based ALA into DHA and EPA in the body, suggesting that the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil are are more biologically potent than alpha-linolenic acid derived from plant based sources. In a nutshell, the body uses the DHA and EPA in fish oil much more effectively than when it has to convert the omega 3 ALA from flaxseed or other plant based sources.
What is the best fish oil?
The best fish oil is not a particular brand, but one that adheres to certain criteria. The quality of the supplement itself is what makes it the best fish oil, not the brand. To find the best fish oil for you, you will want to look at the label and determine if it has the following attributes:
1. Molecularly distilled.
Pollutants and contaminants move up the food chain, and to ensure that your fish oil is free of these, it should undergo a purification process called molecular distillation. This will remove all of the heavy metals,
pesticides, and pollutants that find their way into the fish and ensure a safe product. The best fish oil should clearly be free of any contaminants as this is a supplement that you will be taking daily, most likely for a long period of your life.
2. Has at least 200mg of DHA per serving.
Based on studies, the recommended daily requirement of omega 3 can be met by making sure that any supplements you buy offer at least 200mg of DHA per serving. There are many brands that only offer 100mg or less, and while you can take extra pills to meet your body’s needs, you may be wasting money in doing so. It is not difficult to find supplements that offer 200mg or more DHA per serving.
3. From sustainable sources.
This is more important than people realize.
While this is not a health issue, we should be careful to ensure proper stock of fish will be available so that we will continue to have fish oil available to us in the future. While not labeling the source of the oil is not a deal breaker for me, the best fish oil is one that comes from the small fish lower in the food chain and those not overfished, such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, and anchovy, for example. Cod is definitely not an option for me as those stocks are near extinction in North America.
Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, FACN (2002). “Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 21, No. 6, 495-505