Choosing a Fish Oil Supplement

Choosing a good fish oil supplement may be daunting as there are hundreds available in the market proclaiming magic. How do you choose a good fish oil supplement without being misled? What should you look out for when choosing the right fish oil supplement? Tag along and explore how to decipher the right information so that it is beneficial to you and not deteriorate your health.

The important aspect to consider is the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids contained in the supplement. Omega-3 contains 3 fatty acids namely DHA (Eicosa Pentaenoic Acid) and EPA (Docosa Hexaenoic Acid) and ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) which are essential to fight and prevent physical and mental diseases. ALA is found only in plant based foods like flaxseed or spinach and not in fish oil. Fish oil contains only EPA and DHA. It is important to note that low concentrations of EPA and DHA results in increased risk of sudden or premature death.

Fish oil supplements are commercially available in capsules or liquid form. Before buying you need to check all the ingredients used in the fish oil supplements. You should also check for quality of EPA and DHA in the supplements. Children require DHA for growth and development especially for brain and retina. After the age of 5, consuming higher quantity of EPA is preferred to that of DHA. EPA helps physical and mental health issues, protects genes and cell cycle, prevents chronic illnesses and promotes a sense of well-being.

Who should avoid fish oil?

If you are suffering from liver disorder, bipolar disorder, or are allergic to fish and if you have a surgically placed device like a pace maker or implantable defibrillator then you should avoid fish oil supplements.

Here are 6 factors to consider when choosing a fish oil supplement:

  1. Check for Purity:

There is always some amount of toxins like mercury present in fish oil. If they are within certain acceptable levels, then they are considered to be safe for consumption. Check to see if they are below 2.5PPB (part per billion) of mercury. Anything above this level can be avoided.

Check for freshness – Measurable levels of oxidation using peroxide values are what you need to look out for. Values ranging from 3.7 meq/kg to 5 meq/kg should be good enough.

PCB levels – The total PCB or PolyChlorinated Biphenyl content is measured and needs to be under 2PPM(part per million) as per FDA.

  1. Nutritional value:

Concentration of EPA and DHA content is measured and an average of 45 to 50% is good. It should ideally contain approximately 473mg of EPA and 375 mg of DHA. Check for the quality of EPA and DHA in supplements.

Omega-3 also contains Vitamin A and D. If additional nutrients are found it is better. Fermented Cod liver oil contains Vitamin K2 which helps blood clotting, maintaining healthy skin, stronger bones etc.

  1. Label Accuracy:

The label on the supplement should clearly state the EPA and DHA content clearly. Nutritional facts need to be stated along with PCB levels. Any additional additives added should also be clearly stated.

  1. Safety:

Safety in use is related to purity. Inactive ingredients are added for enhanced flavor or color. Check for additional ingredients in fish oil supplements like artificial coloring agents FD&C Blue1, FD&C Red 40 and whitening agent titanium dioxide that are hazardous to health. Supplements without these are the ones you should look for.

Fish oil supplements kept for prolonged periods and under humid temperatures tend to become rancid and may be dangerous to health. Check for freshness of the product.

  1. Product Effectiveness:

concentrations of omega 3The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consumption of 300mg – 500mg EPA + DHA per day.

Institute of Medicine (IOM) – The DRI (Daily Reference Intake) for omega-3 fatty acids ranges from 1100mg -1600mg per day for adults and 500mg -1000mg per day for children.

ISSFAL – recommends 500mg of EPA+DHA.

The EFSA recommends 250mg of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.


  1. Cost effective:

The product should be affordable and easily available to all. If the product is too expensive, you can always check for other options in the market.

Some types of fish oil supplements deliver omega-7 fatty acids, specifically PalmiToleic Acid PTA, which helps reduce inflammation, LDL or bad cholesterol levels and insulin resistance.

Fish Oil cost Chart

Nowadays, most of the fish oil manufacturers get their products analyzed by independent labs like IFOS to measure and confirm the quality and quantity of ingredients used in the supplements. You can ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) from the manufacturer before purchasing. If they do not wish to give you one, you can avoid buying from them.

Some common side effects of fish oil supplements are belching, burping, loose stools and rashes. You can avoid these by having the supplements along with your food or by freezing them.

Taking precautionary measures and following the above mentioned factors will help you make an informed decision and pave your way to a healthy and happier life.