When you’re looking to buy the “best” fish oil, there’s seven factors you need to look for and consider. You need to consider the bioavailability, the sustainability, the cost, the nutrients, the potency, the freshness and the purity. Some of these are far more important than other factors. Just like almost every other product on the planet, you’ll learn that fish oils aren’t created equal to each other and all of them vary greatly. Having the knowledge about each fish oil so that you can make an intelligent and an informed decision will save you money in the long run.

What a lot of people don’t realize about poor quality fish oil is that there’s quite a lot of fish oil that that’s actually oxidized. This will actually cause health problems instead of what you’re intending on using fish oil for. Now, when you’re looking into the potency of the product, you need to consider as far down as the molecular structure of the fats in the oil and then you need to consider the EPA and DHA as well. These molecular cells in the fat will affect absorption depending on how much is in it.

We have our purified fish oils that aren’t observed as well as the natural fish oils but krill oil is also found to be better observed than fish oil as well. Some reports are stating that krill oil can actually be more affective at reducing inflammation in some people as well. One thing that a lot of people and animal rights activists don’t like is that these oils are usually coming from endangered species of fish. What you want to look for, are fish oils that have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as this guarantees they’re made from higher quality fish.

You may not see it popping up in the news as frequently anymore, but fish oil is wildly popular. If you’ve ever gone on a diet or gone into fitness, then you know how important having omega-3 in your diet is. Most people aren’t getting enough omega-3 because fish meals for the common house hold are relatively rare and junk snack foods contain none of that among none of other healthy things your diet intake should include.

You might even notice that some health care providers have started recommending that people take fish oil as well for their health. This advice and the advice of taking 20 grams of fish oil a day is bad for you and you shouldn’t be doing that. The reason is, as we stated earlier, there are no fish oils that were created one in the same. All of them are different from each other and the ingredients are different as well. As you’d suspect, a lot of companies are just out trying to make a profit rather than trying to educate people on the benefits of taking fish oil for your health so they make false claims.

If you’re recommending to someone that they should be taking up to 20 grams of fish oil a day without recommending high quality fish oil or educating them on how to find high quality fish oil, the results could be potentially dangerous if a poor quality fish oil is taken in that quantity. If you have an oxidized fish oil, what’s going to happen is, inflammation is going to increase in the patient and you’ll also have far higher oxidative damage. We’ll try to spell out some misconceptions about fish oil and we’ll instruct you on how you can find the best fish oil for your health.

Best Fish Oil Complete Guide

PictureNamePriceRating
PictureNamePriceRating
1.
Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil / Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend
$$$9.9
2.
Vital Choice Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon Oil, Omega-3
$$9.7
3.
Jarrow Formulas Max DHA , Supports Brain and Eye Health
$9.5
4.
Now Foods Neptune Krill Oil 1000mg Soft-gels
$$9.4

If you remember from earlier, we noted that there’s approximately seven different things you need to look for when you’re purchasing fish oil.

Price

Now obviously this one isn’t crucial but you have to have a budget for what you’re buying. The cost of the fish oil needs to be affordable for yourself. Don’t buy something that’s higher quality if you can’t afford it but don’t buy low quality at the exact same time.

Purity

This is where a sketchy line is drawn because many companies will claim they meet the purity standards but they actually don’t. Any oil used in fish must meet international standards for not only heavy metals but PCBs and dioxins. If other contaminants are in them, they must meet those standards as well. This is highly important and could be dangerous to your health if they don’t meet purity standards.

The problem with selecting fish and when they’re out in the ocean, they’re well known to concentrate toxic chemicals. It’s not uncommon to find heavy metal components in fish oil or PBCs. These can cause serious diseases if left untested and they go into fish oil (which does happen and companies lie about it). The problem with taking more fish oil, like 20 grams a day that some people recommend, is that you’re exposed to a higher dietary intake of these toxins such as PCBs. This exposes the body to a ridiculous amount of unwanted toxins. Fish oil ideally is only 9% of your dietary intake for these dangerous substances, but you still need to be concerned about the level of toxins in the purity. However, fish oil manufacturers do have a way to combat this through a scientific process called molecular distillation. This process will remove the toxins from the oil completely or at least greatly reduce the amount of toxins in them. Ideally, companies want to make sure they have acceptable standards of toxins defined by the EPA in their fish oil and no more. Any more will become a health hazard.

The troubling part about purity is that almost every company seems to lie about their purity. Some lab analyzation and research has been done on popular fish oils to show that some companies just blatantly lie about the level of toxins in their fish oil. The supplement industry in general is well aware that companies lie and it’s all too common. Unfortunately, making outrageous claims isn’t quite illegal unless it poses a health hazard to the consumers. Now, how you can combat the lying and deception is you can ask for something what’s known as a COA. This stands for Certificate of Analysis and will make any deceptive company crap their pants. You can go directly to the manufacturer and obtain a COA. Lap researchers and performance study groups are the ones that perform COAs to make sure that a product is up to standard and to make sure that any fish oil being sold measures up to EPA standards as being told by the company that they do. If the fish oil lives up to their claims, you’ll definitely know when you ask for a COA.

However, what do you do when a manufacturer refuses to provide you with a COA? Well, seeing as this is standard practice, it usually means that they have something to hide or they know that their product isn’t up to quality standards as defined by the EPA. Now, you may think this is just being paranoid but do you want to buy a product from someone who won’t provide you with authentication and proof that it’s safe? Would you buy a car from someone who refuses to provide you with something such as a Carfax report? So now, we have to determine what levels of toxicity in fish oils are deemed safe for consumption. Among the community and experts, there isn’t one ideal answer and there’s a lot of disagreement on what’s considered the right amount. The problem is, there’s not really any kind of governing body that establishes what’s accept and what isn’t but researchers do know of decent acceptable levels based on independent research and study. When looking at dietary source, we have the Brazil nuts that score relatively high with 1917mcg of selenium per 100 grams. However, they have a downfall of their own as they’re high in n-6 which isn’t relatively good for you but not fatal.

Freshness

Oxidation is an unfortunate common side effect of fish oils and they’re very susceptible to them. What this creates is a rancid and inflammatory effect which in turn will not only be counter-active for your current diet plans but will interfere in the prevention of diseases fish oil commonly prevents.

We’ve covered a decent amount of why the toxicity of fish oils can be dangerous for human consumption and what they can do. What people don’t understand though is just how deadly some of these toxicity levels can be and almost every single modern disease that’s well and alive today can be attributed to high toxicity levels that you may find in some of these fish oils. If you have fat that’s highly unsaturated, then the more vulnerable it is to oxidation and that’s why you need to take the purity and the freshness seriously. When you look into long chain omega 3 fats, you’ll find out that they’re highly saturated and some of the most saturated of all the fats out there. This is why they’re so easily damaged and more likely to contain chemicals or components that you don’t want consumed. Making sure fish oil is not rancid and that fish oil is fresh is a number one priority. Not only for the quality and output of the fish oil but for your own health as well. Having fish oil in your body that becomes rancid will do the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish and you’re not going to be too happy with the results. You may even develop or complicate health problems.

When you obtain the COA and we went over the exact reasoning as to why you should and we also discussed how you can, you want to look for something called the peroxide value. This is one of the main things on the COA that we’re going to be examining because this will ultimately determine how safe the product is to use. What does the peroxide value do? It measures how much rancid components and reactions have been recorded in storage. If you’re looking at peroxide value, it needs to be less than 5 kg. Any more than that, it’s not safe for human consumption. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase of the product and everything seems to check out from the quality end, the first thing you want to do when you get them is to break open one of the capsules. If you notice a fishy odor, you’ve received bad fish oil because there should be absolutely no fishy odors what so ever. If it smells like a rotten fish, something is wrong because it should smell like a summer breeze (that might be a bit too exaggerated) or the summer ocean.

Another particular smell that you’ll want to look for is lemon or lime. They shouldn’t have any kind of hint of lemon or lime in them. This is a trick that dirty manufacturers use when something is rancid and they want to hide the smell. They’ll try to cover up unpleasant smells with pleasant ones so if you smell any kind of flavoring, then something could be up. Unfortunately, selling rancid material isn’t illegal so they know they can just keep trying to cover it up. Thankfully, now you know better. There’s also a myth floating around the community that you can actually determine what kind of quality is in fish oil by freezing it. It’s a simple theory but a misguided one. People say that if you freeze it and you find the oil to be a bit cloudy, then you’ll know it’s rancid. This is completely false. The reason is, every single fish out there contains some levels of saturated and monounsaturated fats. Although the amount of the saturated fats are relatively small, they still contain some none the less so it’s an inaccurate test. This is why some capsules appear to have a cloudy look to them.

Potency

This is highly important that you pay attention to the specific levels of ingredients in fish oils. All fish oil that you want to take must contain the proper amounts and no more or no less of EPA and DHA. You might want to do some research on these because the right amount of DHA is highly important.

Potency is yet another area that’s not quite fleshed out and a lot of people argue over. There’s no real way to determine the exact level of potency you should look for but there are some indicators out there to help you make a wise purchasing decision. What some researchers have done is they’ve reached out to people that have heavy amounts of fish oil in their diet and decided to study the effects whether negative or positive of omega 3s. This was done at a time before any kind of supplemental fish oil ever existed. These clinical studied have been done for decades now. Now, here’s where the problem lies because you’re more than likely deficient in the long chain omega 3s because the study was shown to find that the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA are relatively poor. You’d have to just be eating fish for that to happen. We can also conclude from the line of reasoning that the DHA contained in the fish is highly important for the desired therapeutic effect.

Now, if you’re looking to take fish oil specifically for the purpose of being an anti-inflammatory, then you’ll want to hover around the safe range of 1-3 grams and not the ridiculous 20 gram rule that some doctors subscribe to. What’s a little bit odd and confusing is that in some cultures, they eat foods such as salmon roe because it apparently has healing powers or has some effects that are known to heal. Salmon roe has a large amount of DHA in it and this contributes to why they do what they do. In perspective, if you ordered a 6oz serving of salmon roe, then you’re actually eating 1 entire gram of DHA. However, this isn’t exactly a cheap meal or something that everyone’s going to be able to afford because these salmon roe come in at about $28 for a single serving. Now, the recommended DHA dose that you should be taking will highly depend on exactly what’s being treated. A lot of people use fish oil for different purposes so you’ll want to research carefully for your specific issue and the recommended dose. Also, remember that this is a safe recommended limit and there’s no official all-knowing guide out there that can tell you the exact amounts.

So, if you have a chronic inflammatory condition, you’ll want to take around 2 grams per day. However, if you’re just using fish oil supplements or doing it to remain healthy, then you’ll want to hover around 500mg. The unfortunate fact is, not a lot of fish oil products out there have a high amount of DHA. This means, you have to end up taking more capsules as a result. Remember, we want to avoid extremely high amounts of DHA for safety reasons, so stay away from those products that have unclear labelling.

Nutrients

When looking at nutrients for fish oil, you’ll notice that all fish oils contains some amount of EPA and DHA. However, when we’re discussing fish liver oil or oil that comes from sharks, skates and cods, these particular oils will contain some fat-soluble vitamins that aren’t commonly found in foods.

As we’ve clarified earlier, all fish oils have some levels of EPA and DHA in them. What’s interesting though as far as nutritional value goes, is that some of these fish oils, especially liver oils contain a decent amount of vitamin A and D complexes. Vitamin A and D are crucial to your health and definitely aren’t easy to find in most modern food out there. In addition to your diet, some vitamin A and D supplements may be a good choice. If you’re looking for the most benefit possible, you’ll want to get some fermented cod liver oil which contains Vitamin K2. It’s a recently discovered vitamin and it’s missing from a lot of people’s diets. Some studies (old) suggest that all Vitamin K does is protects the heart from blood clots. However, there’s been new studies done to suggest that they also help with bone structure, brain function, healthy skin, prevent cancer and support growth in young adults and kids.

Bioavailability

This is also something that’s highly important to look for because how effective the fish oil is could very well be from this specific trait alone. The more stable the molecular structure is of the fish oil, the better it will be at absorbing vitamins and ingredients. Low molecular structure is a complete waste of money and will just turn into excrement with no real added benefit. How well fish oil absorbs the components that are beneficial to human health is based on the molecular structure. Specifically the shape of the molecules in the fatty acids. You should always be trying to obtain nutrients from food based sources whenever possible and not completely reliant on supplements as this gets expensive and excess just comes out as urine at the end of the day, costing you money and providing no benefit.

When we examine the market in its current state, there’s really only three different forms available at this point in time. First, you have your natural triglyceride oil. Imagine squeezing a lemon and collecting the juice. This is really the same concept as this oil is what comes out of a squeezed whole fish. This is the closest you can get to eating completely natural fish and it’s bioavailable as well. The only real downside is that you’ll find that this particular type of fish oil comes with low EPA and DHA.

Next we have Ethyl ester oil. When the above natural oil is concentrated and then distilled to remove any impurities, this is the result. There’s still this semi-natural state because of the body’s human functioning and process. However, there are some advantages to ester oil because it has been revealed to contain triple the amounts of EPA and DHA over triglyceride oil.

Finally, we have synthetic triglyceride oil. When we take the process above, we add one more step to make it synthetic. All we have to do is basically re-convert the above formula into synthetic triglycerides. This drastically alters the molecule’s structure and makes it highly bioavailable. So, if we look at the three different types of fish, we can conclude that the natural triglyceride which is naturally better absorbed.

Sustainability

You want to look into how the fish are harvested for your particular fish oil because any fish that were harvested in an unsafe or uncleanly manner need to be avoided completely. This poses risk for diseases or bad fish oil. Any species that are under threat should ideally be avoided at all costs. This one is a bit difficult because the particular sustainability of different fish oils really isn’t that easy to engage. It’s particularly hard to measure because there’s different kinds of fish, they all live in different clients, there’s different methods of acquiring the said fish and so on. There’s some oils that are produced alone as a byproduct of fish harvesting. Now, the reason that manufacturers do this is because if they weren’t produced, they would simply be discarded. At least, that’s what the manufacturers are saying.

This method is arguable far better than harvesting fish just for their oil but at the same time, it’s not good fishing practice and it’s not something that should ideally be in use. So, what kind of fish oil should you be using for sustainability? You ideally want to use fish oil that’s made from the fish. There’s an organization called NSF that can certify the method of fish oil making as well if you’re worried about how the company is making the fish oil. For one example, a great sustainable product is called Vital Choice Wild Salmon and Jarrow Max DHA.

Krill Oil

So, what about krill oil? Is it relatively safe to eat and is it superior to the other three? What makes it so much different and what makes it better or worse than the others? We’ve gotten a basic overview of the three types of main fish oils you see and hear about above but one you don’t commonly hear talked about is something known as krill oil. Some argue that there’s a lot of hidden benefits the other three don’t have and some people think it’s basically just a crock and its companies making things up to sell more products. Right off the bat, we know that krill oil provides EPA and DHA just like the other three do, so it’s definitely in the contesting for healthy consumption. Now, how is krill oil extracted and why is it never talked about? Krill oil is extracted from Anarctic krill, Euphausia superba, a zooplankton crustacean rich in phospholipids carrying EPA and DHA. What makes krill oil so great is that there’s a lot of various potent antioxidants in it as well. This is something that a lot of fish oils lack these days, the antioxidants are essential for older people who are prone to getting sick a lot easier.

There’s also quite a few elements that have some people shaking their heads such as some of the flavonoid properties that aren’t quite understood by researchers yet but they are known to provide some health benefits. The biomolecular structure of krill oil is what sets it apart really because it’s far different than the other three types of fish oil out there. A researcher named Werner successfully demonstrated that there’s fatty acids in krill oil in the form of phospholipids and not only were they found but they were found to be far superior in fatty acids that are essential for the healthy living human body. When testing was done on mice, it was found that the levels of EPA and DHA were significantly increased but there’s been limited testing done on humans due to potentials risks and health concerns. However, there have been some human studies done though because in one particular study, Bunea went on to compare the effect of krill oil on blood lipids. What he did was, he wanted to compare the krill oil and fish oil side by side on how particularly effective it was on blood lipids. He wanted to specifically look at cholesterol to see if there was any kind of a difference or benefit to the krill oil.

This had to be done in different dosages to ensure that the test was being done with various amounts of krill oil and to see if there’s any kind of specific amount that will trigger the effects. Fish oil however was only given a single dose of 3g per day. The interesting results showed that krill oil was not only effective at all doses but it dramatically improved blood lipids, far better than the fish oil did and for that reason, krill oil is far more expensive, despite it being rarer as well. Now, since it is still in testing and isn’t extensively tested yet, there’s a lot of argument back and forth between the exact benefits of krill oil and if they’re consistent every time. At this current point in time though, krill oil is far more effective.

Is It Safe to Eat Fish?

Now, this question comes a lot in the community and it’s reasonable to have concerns because a lot of companies do shady things to get their products out the door and some people are a bit concerned with the amount of mercury in fish. However, if you’re in America, you shouldn’t worry because the amount of mercury found in fish isn’t nearly enough to pose any kind of risk. Measuring mercury though is a flawed practice because it ignores selenium. Selenium is found in the oceans and there’s no short supply of it as well. The public isn’t quite aware of this ingredient because it’s not commonly talked about but it’s highly protective against mercury. Now, this new substance when it’s formed by the selenium will essentially make it difficult for the body to absorb mercury. You can kind of think of it as brain tissue, once selenium is bound to mercury, that mercury may not travel anywhere else and it has to stick to the selenium. So, try to take a guess at how many foods are high in selenium. If you guessed ocean fish, then you’re on track because 16 of the top 25 sources of dietary selenium are actually ocean fish. This is great news and even more so, studies have shown that there’s a lot of selenium, even more so than mercury in most fish in almost every single study done.

Omega 3s: Fish Oil vs. Flax

What exactly is a fatty acid? A fatty acid essentially just combines three different kinds of atoms together: oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. Fatty acids can be further classified basically with how many carbon atoms are in the chain that’s formed by those atoms. Fish contain quite a few different kinds of fatty acids. However, you want to aim for the ones that are the long chain omega 3 fats. You want to make sure you’re getting something ripe in EPA and DHA with long chain omega 3 fats for the best health available.

Best Fish Oil Supplement Reviews

1. Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil Review

This product contains about 270mg of omega 3 and about 139 mg of EPA. Furthermore, we see that the product contains about 83 mg of DHA and is pretty well packed in Vitamin D and Vitamin A with 1,100 IU of Vitamin D and 2,300 IU of Vitamin A.

This is basically a whole food product right from its natural form and isn’t a supplement. This is great news to save money and not have to constantly buy supplement capsules. However, there are pretty high levels of vitamin D and there’s also high levels of vitamins A & K as well. So while it is rich in vitamins, we see that they’re fat soluble vitamins as well and it greatly increases the absorption of the product. This is beneficial for absorbing EPA & DHA. We also see that there’s grass-fed butter oil which will dramatically increase the level of K2 vitamins.

2. Vital Choice Wild Salmon Oil Review

This product comes with 600 mg of omega 3, 240 mg in EPA and 220 mg of DHA. For the vitamins, we have 340 IU of vitamin D and approximately 2,060 IU of vitamin A. This number is calculated by using 3 x 1,000 mg soft gels and not hard capsule tablets.

One of the great things about the vital choice wild salmon oil is that it’s not processed with heat by using something called micro-filtration. This is great because it means it’s going to naturally retain all of those vitamins, mostly A and D. They’re highly absorbable as it comes in a natural triglyceride state. This product also has ingredients that will protect the oil from becoming rancid and it’s very protective against oxidative damage as well. You’ll find a lack of Blue Ice in this product, instead it contains a bit more DHA and EPA to make up for that.

3. Jarrow Formulas Max DHA Review

You’ll find 600 mg of omega 3, 250 mg of DHA and 36mg of EPA per every single capsule. This measurement was done by the use of one serving which is approximately just one capsule.

Now, when we look at Jarrow Max and we put it side by side with the two natural oils that are listed above, we see a very clear difference in the absorption. We first notice that the Jarrow Max is significantly cheaper and you can even get your hands on 1 gram of DHA for only $.32. It’s not a common price but doing a little bit of searching, it’s definitely out there and available for consumers. These are packed rich in anchovies and sardines which are very low in contaminants as well. The good news is, if you ask them for a certificate of analysis, they happily accept and are eager to send you one over. They believe in their product. The COA checks out just fine and is exactly what they say it is which makes this a highly recommended product.

4. Now Foods Neptune Krill Oil Review

You’ll find approximately 230 mg of omega 3, 70 mg of DHA, 120 mg of EPA and this is per serving. One serving is approximately two capsules.

Neptune krill oil has an interesting structure that makes it an improvement over a lot of other different fish oils. When we look at the basic structure of the Neptune krill oil we see that there’s a phospholipid setup which means it improves the absorption of the DHA and EPA. Now, if you want to improve blood lipids, there have been a few number of studies that suggests krill oil is superior in that regards compared to other fish oil. In regards to vitamins, Neptune comes with vitamin E and vitamin A. It also contains something known as Astaxanthin, which is basically just an antioxidant that’s supposedly 10 times more potent than other carotenoids on the market today.

You’ll notice that the size of the Neptune krill oil capsules are far smaller than a lot of capsules on the market today making them great for older people and children, because they’re a lot easier to swallow. Also, while some people have a problem with constantly burping while using other fish oils, the Neptune studies suggest that burping isn’t a common issue.

Aliyah Kramer

Aliyah Kramer

Aliyah worked through college as a personal trainer at the YMCA. She earned her exercise physiology degree at Florida State University and now works for MedStar in pediatrics, performing physical assessments, monitoring individual exercise routines and encouraging student participation in fitness programs.
Aliyah Kramer