Fish oil supplements are a very popular -and for good reason. There is a lot of research that fish oil does a body good. Many studies have shown that the fish oils, EPA and DHA, can lower triglycerides and even lower the risk of a heart attack. Eating fish 2 or 3 times a week (or taking about 1 gram of EPA and DHA) also appears to lower the risk of dying – from everything!
But, how do you know if your getting enough? To help, let’s talk about how to read a fish oil supplement label. If my recent trip to Vitamin Shoppe was any indication, most people do not know what I am about to tell you.
When I was Vitamin Shoppe recently getting some supplements, I noticed a woman in the section where the fish oil supplements were located. She seemed perplexed – and for good reason. There are MANY different types of fish oil supplements out there! Which fish oil brand is the best? Being the good Samaritan that I am, I tried to help her (I love helping people at health food stores. I don’t know how the staff feels about me doing this but for me it’s just a lot of fun).
When you look at a fish oil supplement, probably the first thing you see is a big number on the front label. This number usually tells you the total amount of fish oil that the supplement contains. For example you may see 1,500 mg on the front of the label or something like that. Here is the problem.
When people look at the front of the label, they only see the total amount of fish oil in the supplement – not the amount of EPA and DHA. For example, suppose a supplement lists 1,200 mg on the front. That does not mean the supplement contains 1,200 mg of EPA and DHA.
To get the levels of EPA and DHA you have to look at nutrition label on the back of the bottle. When you do, prepare to be shocked because that 1,200 mg fish oil supplement may have very little EPA and DHA!
Remember, when we talk about how great fish oil is, we are really talking about EPA and DHA. Fish oil supplements often contain many other types of fish oils in addition to EPA and DHA. That is how they can post that big number on the front of the label.
Now I’m not saying those other fish oils are useless. I’m sure they do something good but the majority of evidence on fish oils says its the EPA and DHA that we should be eating more of. When I search for a fish oil supplement, I look for a product that has at least 200 – 300 mg each of EPA and DHA.
Speaking of “other fish oils”, what about Krill oil? After you read this, click over and read my Krill Oil review.
Also look at how many fish oil capsules you have to take to get that amount of EPA and DHA too! In some products a serving size may be 2 capsules while in others it’s only 1 capsule. Products that say only 1 capsule is needed tend to be bigger in size than those that require you to take 2 capsules. If you don’t like swallowing big pills, look for a fish oil supplement that has smaller capsules.
Fish oil facts
1. Don’t worry about mercury in fish oil supplements. Even Consumer Reports, which tends to be very conservative about supplements, reported a few years ago that none of the fish oil products they tested contained mercury. I’m pretty confident that any product made in America is mercury-free. This is especially true of you deal with larger, well known, companies that have a reputation to uphold.
2. If you are burping up fishy smell odors after you take a fish oil supplement, its probably because the fish oil has spoiled. A little vitamin E is often to fish oil supplements to stop them from going rancid but this happens sometimes. Always look at the expiration date on the bottle. Also, try keeping your fish oil supplements in the refrigerator to keep them from spoiling. This should stop those fishy burps 🙂
3. Flax or Fish Oil? When in doubt, go fish oil. Flax is good but a lot of the heart healthy benefits of flax come from the fact that humans can convert flax into fish oils (EPA and DHA). The problem is that we can only convert about 10% of the flax into fish oil so flax’s impact on lowering triglycerides etc. tends to be less than for fish oils themselves.
What do you think?