14 Frequently Asked Questions About Fish Oil
Health experts frequently recommend a fish oil dietary supplement as part of a good nutritional foundation. That is because fish oil supplements are an excellent source of two essential omega-3 fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Although both the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association currently recommend consuming at least 1-2 servings of fatty fish (high in omega-3s) each week, that might not be enough for maintaining good health.
New findings show that to achieve a desirable amount of EPA and DHA in your cell membranes, these long-held dietary recommendations might fall short and that, instead, three fish meals per week plus additional fish oil supplementation daily might be needed.1
EPA and DHA are important for overall health because of the host of health benefits they offer, such as:
- Maintaining healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels*
- Promoting cardiovascular health*
- Helping maintain normal blood pressure*
- Promoting joint health*
- Supporting a weight management program*
- Promoting eye health*
- Supporting a healthy respiratory system*
- Promoting mental focus*
- Helping maintain muscle mass in older adults*
- Promoting a healthy immune function*
- Supporting a positive mood*
Because the body does not make EPA or DHA on its own, we can only obtain these essential omega-3 fatty acids from diet, supplementation, or a combination of the two.
The so-called “oily” fish that contain considerable amounts of EPA and DHA are typically cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, and albacore tuna.
Unfortunately, most individuals don't consume enough of these kinds of fish to obtain the optimal amounts of these two vital omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements can help fill that gap. But before you choose a fish oil supplement, here is what you should know so you can find a fish oil supplement that will meet your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fish Oil Supplements
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about fish oil supplements.
1. How much fish oil do I need?
According to a recent study,1 in order to consume an optimal amount of fish oil, you would need to eat at least three servings weekly of “oily” fish in addition to supplementing daily about 500 mg of EPA and DHA. Alternatively, if fish is not a part of your normal diet, then you should take a fish oil supplement daily that contains at least 900 mg of EPA and DHA.
2. Where do omega-3 fatty acids come from?
Omega-3 fatty acids typically come from the oil of cold-water fish such as anchovy, sardines, mackerel, and other “oily” fish. However, some omega-3 fatty acids can be extracted from certain types of algae or extracted from krill, a small crustacean that makes up part of the diets of penguins, as well as whales, seals, and other aquatic mammals. Precursors to EPA and DHA can come from nut, seed, and vegetable oils (such as flaxseed oil), but the body’s conversion to EPA or DHA is not always easy to achieve.
3. If I am trying to avoid exposure to mercury, is it better to eat fish or take a fish oil supplement?
Certain types of fish are more likely to contain toxins, such as mercury, and fish are not typically tested for mercury levels. Thorne’s fish oil supplements are all tested for heavy metal contaminants, including mercury.
4. What things are fish oil supplements tested for?
Because purity is directly related to efficacy, Thorne’s fish oil supplements are manufactured using fish oil that comes from so-called “non-accumulating” fish. Non-accumulating means the fish are caught when they are very young and very small and therefore are not likely to have accumulated toxins in their flesh. In addition, Thorne utilizes a distillation process that ensures the fish oil is free of contaminants such as heavy metals, PCBs, and dioxins.
5. What other forms of fish oil supplements are there besides gelcaps?
Although fish oil supplements are most commonly manufactured as gelcaps, there are fish oil supplements that come in other dispensing formats. For example, a liquid fish oil supplement is a great option for individuals who would have difficulty swallowing a gelcap, such as young children or the elderly.
6. Is fish oil supplementation safe for athletes?
Athletes can benefit from a fish oil supplement because of the heart, muscle, and joint benefits.* And because professional athletes need to know their nutritional supplement contains only the ingredients listed on the label – meaning there are no banned substances in it – Thorne's Super EPA is NSF Certified for Sport® and provides the highest quality fish oil available.
7. When is the best time to take a fish oil supplement?
Generally, you can take a fish oil supplement any time during the day. However, it is recommended to take a fish oil supplement with a meal, because taking any supplement on an empty stomach can cause some people to feel nauseous. Fat-soluble supplements – which fish oil supplements are – are also better absorbed with a meal.
8. I don’t like the aftertaste of a fish oil supplement. What are my options?
Not many people like the fishy aftertaste that some fish oil supplements can have. Thorne’s liquid fish oil, Omega Superb, is lightly sweetened and lemon-berry flavored. Or if you prefer taking a gelcap, then you can freeze your gelcaps before taking it, which reduces the fishy aftertaste. In any case, the “fish burps” tend to go away after you have been taking the supplement for a while.
Thorne’s fish oil supplements offer omega-3 fatty acids in higher amounts per serving than many other fish oil supplements on the market, plus Thorne offers a variety of fish oil supplements that address unique health needs and concerns. In addition to heart health and brain health, Thorne’s fish oil supplements offer additional benefits.*
If you are seeking support for a specific health concern, then below are the frequently asked questions specific to fish oil supplements and health benefits.
9. If I am seeking support for better energy production and antioxidant support, which fish oil supplement is best for me?
Thorne’s Omega-3 w/CoQ10 combines EPA and DHA from fish oil with the potent antioxidant and energy-promoting capacities of CoQ10.* Combining CoQ10 with fish oil provides the benefits of CoQ10 and omega-3 fatty acids, and the omega-3’s also enhance CoQ10’s absorption.*
10. If I am seeking support for bone health and joint health, which fish oil supplement is best for me?
Thorne’s Super EPA – NSF Certified for Sport® provides 425 mg of EPA and 270 mg of DHA. This higher concentration of EPA has been shown to help maintain the body's normal inflammatory response in muscles and joints.* And if you are an athlete, you will want the NSF International certification.
11. If I am seeking a well-balanced fish oil supplement, then which fish oil supplement is best for me?
The omega-3 fatty acids in Thorne’s Super EPA provides an excellent balance of EPA and DHA to help maintain a healthy insulin response, provide weight management support, enhance mood, and support healthy heart and brain function.*
12. If I am seeking support for healthy cholesterol levels and triglyceride metabolism, which fish oil supplement is best for me?
Thorne’s Super EPA Pro offers a higher level of EPA (650 mg per gelcap), which has been shown to enhance the metabolism of fats in the blood, including triglycerides.*
13. If I want to use fish oil to support skin health, which fish oil supplement is best for me?
Thorne’s Omega Plus combines the preeminent omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA with an omega-6 fatty acid – GLA from borage oil – in one gelcap. These essential fatty acids help keep skin hydrated and provide protection from the damaging effects of the sun.*
14. If I want a fish oil supplement for my children to take, which fish oil supplement is best for my family?
Thorne's Omega Superb offers all the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in a great-tasting lemon-berry flavored liquid that makes for easy fish oil supplementation in children.
1. Jackson K, Polreis J, Tintle N, et al. Association of reported fish intake and supplementation status with the omega-3 index. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acid 2019 March;142:4-10. [Epub ahead of print]