Are All Fish Oils The Same? The short answer is … No.
It may seem like everyone around you is constantly talking about taking fish oil (sometimes referred to as Omega-3). You may see fish oil stacked at the end aisle of the drugstore, health food store, or in the supermarket.
I often am often asked ‘what do you look at to determine which fish oil is best for you?’ My answer usually involves taking a number factors into consideration. I’ll cover some of them in general here.
Fish Source/Toxicity Levels: Most fish oils are produced from cold-water oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. Fish are often caught globally, many companies have openly outlined the processes by which they ensure their products and raw materials remain clean and pure. Many of the manufacturer websites provide information on where their fish are typically caught, as well as what types of fish they use to make their products.
Access to Testing Reports: Many brands comission third party tests to ensure that products meet quality standards of the World Health Organization and the Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED) standards. This includes checks for mercury, arsenic, dioxin-like PCBs, lead, cadmium, and other hazards. Some companies go above and beyond the expectations, allowing customers to type in the lot number from their bottle and readily access a copy of the testing report.
EPA to DHA Ratios: EPA and DHA are the two most common active ingredients researched with respect to fish oil. Often patients take one fish oil capsule from their bottle and consider their supplement taken. However, it is very important to read the label and the directions from your naturopathic doctor. Different health conditions require different levels of supplementation to have beneficial effect on the body. Most commonly NDs will suggest that patients take between 1000 – 2000 mg of EPA, in a form where EPA is represented in a ratio of 3:1 to DHA. Again, this may vary depending on needs, health conditions, and dietary intake.
Form: Fish oil is available in capsule and liquid form. While the liquid form requires refrigeration, it is often at a higher concentration then the capsules. The higher concentration allows the patient to take 1 tsp in some cases, instead of 4 or more capsules to get the same therapeutic effect. Liquids come in a variety of flavors to increase palatability and can often be more readily absorbed in the body.
Krill vs. Fish Oil: While both of these products are made from different species of fish they are not the same. Krill oil is made generally from crustaceans in the ocean that are a favourite food of whales, seals, squid fish and seabirds. Krill has been so heavily fished in many parts of the world that bans are in place against their continued fishing for fear of jeopardizing marine life balance by removing the fish many other species feed upon. This includes bans off the US West Coast, Norway and Antarctica.
Additionally, krill oil is much less studied then fish oil. The little research that does exist on this product has most often come from the manufacturers of the product. It is impossible without further research to know if the same (or additional benefits) can be obtained from krill oil.
When it comes to supplementing with Omega 3 – talk to your naturopathic doctor about the product that will provide the best outcome. If you already have a fish oil, bring it into your appointment, and discuss with your ND dosages and quality of the brand you have on hand.