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Best Fish Oil Supplements Ranked: A Consumer's Guide

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By    |   Sunday, 09 Oct 2016 08:47 PM

Fish oil supplements are the most popular natural products in the United States, with sales second only to multivitamin/mineral tablets.

Nearly 8 percent of Americans (18.8 million) and 1.1 percent of children (664,000) take fish oil pills to boost their cardiovascular and overall health, according to a recent National Health Interview Survey.

But choosing the right fish oil supplement isn’t easy. Some product labels are misleading while other pills may not contain as the recommended levels of omega-3 fatty acids — particularly EPA and DHA.

To clear up the confusion and help consumer’s make smart choices, ConsumerLab.com – a leading source of consumer information and independent evaluations of dietary supplements – tested 44 popular supplements to identity the best options.

The lab’s experts checked to see if the products contained the advertised amounts of heart-healthy EPA and DHA, and also tested the products for spoilage and contamination with lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and PCBs.

The results — published in a new report – "Fish Oil and Omega-3 and -7 Fatty Acid Supplements Review" — this month, indicated all but three of the tested supplements passed with flying colors.

But the experts found some products are better than others and identified a handful of “Top Picks.”

Clinical studies of fish oil have found it has a wide range of health benefits — for heart function, mental health, treating inflammatory disease, and even cancer prevention.

But since no fish oil supplement is the same, consumers often have no idea how much they should take to maximize its benefits, the researchers said.

“When buying supplements containing EPA and/or DHA, keep in mind products vary significantly in terms of the amounts and ratios of EPA and DHA,” the authors write.

“Be aware that only about a third of the oil from fish is EPA and DHA, although this may be higher (up to about 85 percent as EPA and DHA) in a ‘concentrated’ product.’ ”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting daily intake of EPA and DHA from supplements to no more than 2 grams unless medically indicated. (Check labels for the exact amount per serving.)

“A general daily dose is about 300 to 500 mg of EPA and DHA, while some treatments (such as for high triglycerides) involve doses as much as 4,000 mg per day,” the Consumer Lab authors note.

“Although generally safe, high amounts of EPA and DHA may suppress the immune system. Fish oil may also thin the blood and slightly lower blood pressure.”

If you’re taking a fish oil supplement for a particular health condition, experts recommend talking with your doctor and searching the literature to help identify an optimal dose. The best source of clinical studies is PubMed, a national database.

Because fish oil is chemically modified during processing, it’s best to choose the most-absorbable form.

“The ‘re-esterified triglyceride’ form may be the best absorbed, with up to 76 percent greater absorption than from the more common ‘ethyl ester’ form,” the Consumer Lab researchers say.

Here are Consumer Lab’s “Top Picks” by category and the EPA/DHA content per serving:

  • Fish oil in softgels. Spring Valley (Walmart) Fish oil. 300 mg of EPA plus DHA.
  • Extremely concentrated fish oil. Viva Labs Omega-3 Fish Oil. 940 mg of EPA plus DHA.
  • Fish oil in enteric coated softgels. 21st Century Fish Oil. 289 mg of EPA plus DHA.
  • Fish oil liquids. Barlean’s Fresh Catch Fish Oil – Orange Flavor. 1,265 mg of EPA plus DHA.
  • Krill oil. Viva Labs Krill Oil. 130 mg of EPA plus DHA.
  • Calamari oil. Wellsona Brain Health Omega. 50 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA.
  • Algae oil. Source Naturals Vegan True Non-Fish Omega-3s. 90 mg EPA and 180 mg DHA.
  • Omega-7 supplements. Doctor’s Best Omega-7. 210 mg of omega-7s.

Here’s Consumer Labs’ list of approved products by category:

  • Fish oil regular softgels. Andrew Lessman ProCap Essential Omega-3, Bayer Pro Ultra Omega 3, Carlson Elite Omega-3 – Lemon Flavor, Finest Nutrition (Walgreens) Fish Oil, Life Extension Super Omega-3, Members Mark (Sam’s Club) Fish Oil, Minami Nutrition Mor EPA Platinum – Orange Flavor, Nature Made Fish Oil, Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega – Lemon Flavor, Nutrifi Omega-Q, Pure Encapsulations O.N.E Omega, Solgar Omega 3, Spring Valley (Walmart) Fish Oil, Swanson Omega-3 Fish Oil – Lemon Flavor, USANA Biomega, Viva Labs Ultra Strength Omega-3 Fish Oil.
  • Fish oil enteric-coated softgels. 21st Century Fish Oil, GNC Triple Strength EPA, GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil, Metagenics OmegaGenics EPA-DHA 500 EC, Natural Factors Ultra Strength RxOmega-3, Nature’s Bounty Mini Fish Oil, Omegavia, Vitamin World Ester-Omega Omega-3 Fish Oil.
  • (Similar to approved products: Puritan’s Pride Premium Mini Gel Omega-3 Fish Oil.)
  • Fish oil liquids. Barlean’s Fresh Catch Fish Oil – Orange Flavor.
  • Krill oil. Schiff MegaRed Extra Strength 500 mg Omega-3 Krill Oil, Viva Labs Krill Oil.
  • Cod liver oil. Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil – Lemon Flavor, Wellsona Brain Health Omega.
  • Calamari/krill oil blends. Dr. Sears’ Private Label Primal Force Omega Rejuvenol.
  • Algae oil. Ora Nothing Fishy Here – Organic Pineapple Burst, Ovega-3 Naturals Vegan True Non-Fish Omega-3s.
  • Omega-7 products. Doctor’s Best Omega-7, SeabuckWonders Sea Buckthorn Oil Blend Omega-7 Complete.
  • Prenatal products. New Chapter Wholemega For Moms, Spectrum Prenatal DHA.
  • Children’s products. Renew Life Omega Smart Kids DHA – Fruit Punch.
  • Pet products. 1-800 PetMeds Super Pure Omega-3, Zesty Paws Pure Salmon Oil.
     

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Fish oil supplements are the most popular natural products in the United States, and are taken daily by millions of Americans for heart health and other benefits. But choosing the right fish oil supplement isn't easy. A new analysis identifies the best choices.
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2016-47-09
Sunday, 09 Oct 2016 08:47 PM
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