How to choose the best omega 3 supplement?
Updated: Mar 24
Omega-3 is one of our favourite supplements- how to choose the best Omega-3?
Strolling through the aisles of a pharmacy, by the word of mouth in your neighbourhood: Omega-3 is no stranger to all. You know, the good stuffs in the fish that is so good for you. It is true. But how good it is? With a wide range of Omega 3 brands on the market, how do we choose? By Brand? Or by knowing the crucial information to make the good choice?
Why take Omega-3?
Before deciding taking omega-3, let’s learn more in depth about Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for our survival but cannot be produced by our bodies, thus, we depend on consuming them through foods like salmon, mackerel and herring. Two portions of fish are recommended to covers your needs for Omega-3 fish oil. However, this is simply not possible for many people and it can sometimes be challenging to maintain this intake throughout the year. Research has showed that 80% of Australians do not consume sufficient amounts of omega-3 through their diet (1), thus, taking supplements can help fuel your body with all it needs, and a good alternative for those who does not like the smell or taste of seafood.
Omega-3 fatty acids are part of our cell membranes and have many other important functions in our bodies, including the immune system and heart. Omega-3 also helps in providing positive impact on mood and cognitive function, boosting the cell membrane and making your skin and hair look healthy and hydrated.
Fatty acids forms in Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids come in a few different forms, the 3 most important are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).
EPA is a 20-carbon long omega 3 fatty acid with the main function to produce chemicals called eicosanoids that reduce inflammation. Whilst DHA is a 22-carbon fatty acid that makes up about 8% of brain weight and contributes to brain development and function. The 18-carbon fatty acid (ALA) can be converted into EPA and DHA, which benefit the heart, immune system and nervous system. EPA and DHA are found in fish and other seafood while ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils.
Chemical structure of fatty acids in Omega-3 (Adapted from: Roke 2017 (2))
3 Key ways to buy a good omega-3 supplement
1. Which fatty acids the supplement contains?
Not all fats are created equal. The contents of the oil greatly matter and influence the health benefits it has. The fatty acids that yield the greatest benefits for you and support your body system is EPA and DHA.
2. Which form is the fatty acids?
The natural form of fatty acids in most plants and animals are called triglycerides (TG). However, the natural forms only contain very low amount of DHA/EPA. Another form that is commonly found in most fish oils in the market is ethyl esters (EE), where the fatty acids are connected to ethanol molecules which makes them distillable at lower temperatures and therefore can reduce the production costs and concentrate DHA/EPA in a higher concentration. However, the EE form of fish oil is not as easily absorbed into our body and is more prone to oxidation and rancidity than the TG form- bringing harm to our body as it can damage our cells. However, EE forms can be re-esterified into TG form, bringing the maximum positive impact on our metabolism. Such processing can increase the concentration of EPA and DHA up to 50 – 90%, increasing its efficiency.
3. Total oxidation levels in Omega 3 (TOTOX levels)
As oxidation occurs, the content of EPA and DHA also decreases. Furthermore, excessively oxidized lipids can be harmful to consume. Thus, total oxidation values is essential to determine the freshness of an omega-3 fish oil. Peroxide and anisidine measurements provide a quantifiable indication of byproducts that exist when oils break down and oxidize. And the TOTOX value, by calculating the peroxide and anisidine measurements, provides a clearer picture of the freshness level of oil. GOED (Global organization of EPA and DHA) recommends an upper limit peroxide value of 5 mEq/kg and anisidine value of 20 mEq/kg (3).
It is worthwhile to invest in high quality Omega-3 fish oil supplements and know how to choose what’s best for you.
1. Meyer BJ. Australians are not Meeting the Recommended Intakes for Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Results of an Analysis from the 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Nutrients. 2016 Feb 24;8(3):111. doi: 10.3390/nu8030111. PMID: 26927162; PMCID: PMC4808841.
2. Roke K. Exploration of the perceived and actual benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the impact of FADS1 and FADS2 genetic information on dietary intake and blood levels of EPA and DHA. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017 Mar;42(3):333. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2016-0700. Epub 2017 Feb 10. PMID: 28186827.
3. Oxidation in Omega-3 oils: An overview. GOED Omega-3. https://goedomega3.com/storage/app/media/scientific-reports/Oxidation%20in%20Omega-3%20Oils_%20An%20Overview.pdf