Okay, you’ve done your research and have decided that it really would be a good idea to add a fish oil supplement to your daily health routine.  Armed with the knowledge of how important the fish oils can be to support your brain & heart health, lower systemic inflammation and a myriad of other benefits, you walk into your local health food store and are assaulted by the choices and options…. 

Here are a few suggestions to help you make a wise, informed choice from among the array of fish oil choices. 

  1. Purity of product is a big consideration. 
    The Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are sourced from the cold-water, fatty fish that live and eat in a no-longer pristine ocean environment.  They are exposed, like us, to toxins on a daily basis.  In particular, these fish have a potential heavy burden of heavy metals like mercury as well as other impurities, contaminants and pollutants.  The good news is that there are techniques available to assess and remove these undesirable items so that the oil derived from these fish is safe for consumption.   Also, more reputable companies will source their marine oil from the smaller fish that have a shorter life span so that they naturally  bio-accumulate fewer toxins.  The more reputable companies will note clearly on their label that they have addressed this issue.  Look for a notation like “Purity Guaranteed”, “Third Party Purity Tested” or “Pharmaceutical Grade” products. 

  2. Forget the front of the label. 
    The info you really need for potency and dosing will be found on the back label.  The Omega 3 EFAs in fish oil are EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid).  Different formulas will feature different ratios of EPA to DHA.  Your choice of which ratio you are looking for will depend on a variety of different considerations but for most adults a formula that features more EPA than DHA is most helpful.   

    The key piece about dosing has to do with realizing just how much combined EPA and DHA is in a serving size of the product.  Relying just on the front label information can be very misleading because some companies will add a large amount of another marine oil other than EPA or DHA.  This leads the consumer to infer that the amount on the front label represents the total combined EPA-DHA amount when in fact the total amount is much less once you subtract the additional marine oil.   

    For example, the therapeutic dose of combined EPA and DHA is anywhere from 1000 – 2000 mg per day.  Lets say you purchase a product that says on the front label “1000 mg fish oil per capsule”.  You think great!  I only have to take 2 capsules a day to get 2000 mg.  Just what the doctor ordered, right? 

    But wait a minute.  You turn the bottle over to read the back label and you see that each capsule has only 350 mg of EPA and 250 mg of DHA with 400 mg of some other marine oil.  Now you realize that 1 capsule is really providing only 600 mg of combined EPA and DHA and you need to take 3 capsules to get close to the 2000 mg daily dose. 

    Pay attention to the combined amounts of EPA and DHA per serving on the back label to make sure you’re hitting your target for the day.    

  3. Where the fish are sourced from can be important as well, especially for environmentally conscious health consumers concerned about sustainability practices.  The companies I like to recommend use marine oils that come from fisheries with ocean-friendly practices. All fish and calamari are wild-caught in cold waters, not farmed, and carefully processed for multiple uses (e.g., food) to minimize waste.   

Use these suggestions to help you get the most out of your Omega 3 supplement so you can experience the full benefits to your health and peace of mind.  Alternatively, ask Dr. Gosselin to make a personalized recommendation for you knowing that the concerns about purity, dosing and potency and sustainable sourcing have already been addressed.