HOW TO DO A QUALITY CHECK ON OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTS

 

Fish oil is one of the best-selling and most researched supplements on the market, and for good reason; it provides benefits for many systems of the body. What is it about fish oil that makes it so valuable and why do people need it? The powerful health benefits provided by fish oil come from its rich omega-3 content, more specifically from two omega-3 fatty acids, called DHA and EPA. These omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that must be derived from your diet, and the American Heart Association recommends a daily consumption of 1000 mg of combined DHA and EPA to support cardiovascular health. Many companies advertise their product as having the recommended “1000 mg of fish oil” - so that makes them all the same, right? No. Unfortunately, this is a common marketing ploy that is terribly misleading and may allow an inferior product to be marketed as an effective supplement without it containing the appropriate amount of “omega-3s” to provide health benefits. So how do you sort through the products to find an optimal supplement? The solution – read the label. We will teach you how to read the label and what to look for when choosing an omega-3 fish oil supplement.

DHA & EPA OMEGA-3 CONTENT

Look for DHA+EPA omega-3 content. Remember, it’s not how much “fish oil” but rather how much of the omega-3s - DHA and EPA - that is important to you. Many products will advertise “1000 mg of fish oil” but the “fish oil” may contain a much smaller amount of omega-3s, while the remainder contains unnecessary and fattening fat. To accurately discover the omega-3 content of a fish oil supplement focus only on the back of the label; examine the individual components listed in the “Supplement Facts” box and pay attention to the “Serving Size”! Beware: the amount of each ingredient listed tells you what is supplied in one “serving” so it is important to know if the product serving size is one, two, or even three soft gels. (This will also dictate the “Servings Per Container” and will help you compare pricing of a supplement; based on the daily dose, how long will this product last?)

MANY POPULAR BRANDS FALL SHORT

In the video, we first examine a randomly selected, popular fish oil supplement to demonstrate what to look for in the Supplement Facts on the back of the label. Begin by finding the serving size, which in this case is “2 softgels”. What follows on the ingredient list are the “Amounts per Serving”. In this example, two soft gels contain a total of 3 grams (or 3000 mg) of fat! Next, go down the list and look for DHA and EPA. Add the “amount per serving” of DHA+EPA: 240+360 = 600 mg. Conclusion: If you take 2 soft gels daily, this product will provide only 600 mg of omega-3s. If like many of us, you did not notice the serving size and take just one pill, you will be getting half of that or just 300 mg of the healthful omega-3s, DHA and EPA that you are looking for. The remaining fat is unnecessary fat that is fattening and often contains impurities found in fatty fish that are potential carcinogens, such as PCB’s, furans, and dioxins. Again, what you are looking for in a fish oil supplement is the amount of omega-3s, DHA and EPA. A more highly concentrated fish oil product will contain higher levels of DHA and EPA with minimal additional fat.

PURIFICATION PROCESS

Another factor that separates the quality of some omega-3 supplements from the rest is the purification process. Higher quality supplements will use an effective, state-of-the art processing such as supercritical fluid technology, which gently purifies the oil at low temperatures to remove toxins without damaging the oil, and keeps the maximum amount of the beneficial components. A more highly purified product will provide a concentrated dose of what you are looking for - the healthful omega-3s DHA+EPA - while reducing excess fat and harmful impurities.
A big complaint about many fish oil products is the unpleasant aftertaste, commonly known as the “fishy burp.” This is eliminated with an enteric coating, which improves absorption and eliminates any unpleasant aftertaste. Fish oil supplements are a great way to ensure you are getting the recommended amounts of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Learning how to “read the label” and better evaluate and compare products will help you navigate the oversaturated market and find an optimal supplement. VitalOils1000 is a highly purified, highly concentrated fish oil supplement that provides a full 1,000 mg of the omega-3s DHA and EPA in a single enteric-coated soft gel.

Laura D. Baum, MD