Are you taking the right amount of fish oil?

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Salmon is a rich source of EPA.

Salmon is a rich source of EPA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to choose the right omega-3 fish oil supplement

Many of the clients I see are taking omega-3 supplements yet often they don’t know exactly how much to take—or what to look for in a supplement. Dietetic intern Charlotte Collins and I spent time talking about omega-3s in a series of three videos.

This first video is about what to look for in a supplement, secondly we’ll look at what options there are for vegetarians and lastly we’ll discuss krill oil. Is it worth it? To watch the video click here

Neily: I’m here with Charlotte Collins, my intern from the University of Alabama, explaining to her about omega-3s. Somebody in your family takes (omega-3) supplements?
Charlotte: My aunt. Her doctor recommended she take them.
Neily: Do you know anything about what she takes or how much she takes?
Charlotte: I think I remember her mentioning that her doctor recommended she take 1000 mg.
Neily: And that’s usually the recommendation they give. But what the doctor might mean to say is that they need to take 1000 mg of “EPA” and “DHA”. Those are the specific omega-3 fatty acids in the fish that have been shown to be of heart health benefit, brain health benefit, help with our immune function, inflammation. But you don’t often hear that. And looking at some products…
Charlotte: She might look at this bottle and see it contains 1000 mg of fish oil but you told me to specifically look for EPA and DHA. I go down and see that in 3 pills there are 750 gm of EPA and DHA. That’s short of the 1000mg so she will need to take 4 soft gels.

Fish oil label 750mg total EPA DHA for 3caps

Neily: Exactly. So what about another product she may look at?
Charlotte: If she kept looking…this product here contains 1290 mg of fish oil which is more than the amount her doctor recommended. Which is fine.
Neily: So, she might actually choose this one over that one.
Charlotte: Then, she will look for the EPA and the DHA on the back. But this supplement does not differentiate between how many total milligrams of fish oil there are and how much actually are the EPA and DHA. So, this is probably not her best choice.omega 3 label 1290mg
Neily: Correct. If I were buying for myself, I would probably put that one back on the shelf because I would like to know specifically how much of those omega-3s are DHA and EPA.
Charlotte: If she kept browsing, here is another one. The serving size is two soft gels. And if I go down, I see EPA and DHA is 1200 mg; this seems like a great one.Cooper omega 3 label
Neily: Yes. Two soft gels to get over 1000 mg versus 4 in the other one. It’s not that it’s a bad one, but you need to take twice as much every day to get the requirement. Sometimes it’s worth it to look for those that are more concentrated. And specifically looking at the EPA and the DHA.
Charlotte: That makes sense. And if she wanted to get omega-3s and not from fish oil alone, how else will she be able to get them?
Neily: We can also get omega-3s from plant sources. If she is eating a lot of fish, especially the fatty fish like salmon, then she can cut back on the supplements. Salmon is one of my favorite sources. Our plant sources such as flax seeds and walnuts are omega-3s but they are different omega-3s. The fish omega-3s are the EPA and the DHA and the plant omega-3s are ALA. Different acronyms. Not that they are bad because they are good. However, to convert to EPA and DHA, the process is not very efficient at all. So, you get very little of the EPA and DHA. It’s good for us but not as good as directly from the EPA and the DHA. A lot of published studies on this and most of them on the EPA and DHA—it’s really best to get them from the fish.Love the plant sources of omega-3s but for the heart health and the brain health, the inflammation benefits, the fish oil is better. Eat the fish!
Charlotte: So, bottom line, EPA and DHA—look for those on the labels
Neily: There it is. Some information for you to take back to your classmates!  Thanks for watching Neily on Nutrition and we’ll see you in the next video.

 


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