There are easily over 100 different brands of omega 3 health supplements in the UK alone, so how do you choose? We’ve put together our top tips for when choosing a supplement provider!
The strength, or the amount of omega-3 in the supplements
Labels are confusing. They say something like ‘high strength 1,000mg omega-3 capsule’ and that sounds good right? But that’s the weight of the capsule, not the amount of omega-3. To get omega-3 benefits we need to take a larger dose than is found in most supplements. To reduce blood pressure, for example, the dose needed is 3,000mg combined of EPA and DHA and this is almost impossible to get from most regular supplements. However some high-strength products, such as Bare Biology’s Life & Soul Liquid has this amount in one teaspoon.
The purity of the fish oil and transparency around what is, and isn’t, in the supplement
PCBs (plastic residues which are known carcinogens), dioxins and furans, mercury, arsenic and cadmium are just a small number of contaminants found in fish due to the waste that is pumped into our seas by hideous corporates, careless people and the 1,000 plus containers that fall in the sea every year. Obviously you don’t want to have too much of any of these in your diet.
Fish oils can contain these so it’s really important to buy from a reputable company that tests its finished batches to prove they’re free from these nasties. It’s also important to buy fish oil made from small, wild fish such as sardines, mackerel and anchovies that have shorter life spans and accumulate fewer contaminants (unlike salmon or tuna). Look out for companies that are tested by IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards), and publish their results.
Freshness and taste. Nobody likes fishy burps!
Lots of people complain about fish oil supplements because they repeat on them or give them ‘fishy burps’, which isn’t just unpleasant. Rancid oil may have a negative effect on cholesterol levels and can promote inflammation, the root cause of many chronic health conditions. Fish oils should be spanking fresh when bottled or put into capsules.
Natural triglyceride form for better bioavailability
Bioavailability just means how easily and readily something is absorbed or used by the body. Fish oil comes in three forms. A natural triglyceride which you find in fresh fish only. Ethyl ester which is a concentrated version and natural triglyceride form or reformed triglycerides. This type has undergone a process to convert the ethyl ester back into a triglyceride which is a more expensive process and therefore only found in high quality fish oil supplements. Studies show this type is 70% more bioavailable than ethyl esters and many nutrition experts won’t recommend ethyl esters at all.
Minimal added ingredients and no fillers
Capsules really don’t need flavours so if you see them, be cautious about why they’re in there and what they’re masking. Most gelatin capsules are made from pork or beef but some, like Bare Biology’s supplements use fish gelatin and only contain the absolute necessary ingredients.
In summary, it’s important to look for quality in health supplements in the way you would with food. It varies dramatically, especially with omega-3 fish oils, so it’s worth doing your research.