How To Choose Your Fish Oil Supplement
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
By: Amira Haninah Misri, Bachelor of Dietetic (Hons.)
Fish oil is the fat or oil that is extracted from fish tissue. It usually comes from oily fish, such as herring, tuna, anchovies, salmon and mackerel. Yet it’s sometimes produced from the livers of other fish, as is the case with cod liver oil. Fish oil indeed can be obtained by eating fish or taking supplements. Fish oil is one of the most commonly consumed dietary supplements. The reason being is because, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for your health1,2. Two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Findings show omega-3 fatty acids may help to:
Lower blood pressure
Slow the development of plaque in the arteries
Reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm
Reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke
Lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease3
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends every individual to eat fish (particularly fatty, coldwater fish) at least twice a week. Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, and tuna are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Some fish oil products are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as prescription medications to lower triglycerides levels. Fish oil is also available as a supplement. Fish oil supplements do not contain the same amount of fish oil as prescription products, so they cannot be used in place of prescription products4
Interestingly, the body is unable to develop its own omega-3 fatty acids. Nor can the body make omega-3 fatty acids from omega-6 fatty acids, which are common in the Western diet. A lot of research has been done on EPA and DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce pain and swelling. This may explain why fish oil is likely effective for psoriasis and dry eyes5. These fatty acids also prevent the blood from clotting easily. This might explain why fish oil is helpful for some heart conditions6
Even of how good the fish oil supplement is, it is very important to know the recommended dosage so we can get the most benefit out of the supplement. EPA and DHA dosage recommendations vary depending on age and health. WHO recommends a daily intake of 0.2–0.5 grams (200–500 mg) of combined EPA and DHA. However, it may be necessary to increase the dosage during pregnancy, nursing, or at risk of heart disease. Choose a fish oil supplement that provides at least 0.3 grams (300 mg) of EPA and DHA per serving1.
However, do concern on the concentration of the fish oil. Despite supplemented with up to 1,000 mg of fish oil per serving but it may contains EPA and DHA of only 300 mg. Read the label and choose a supplement that contains at least 500 mg of EPA and DHA per 1,000 mg of fish oil7.
1 Robertson R. (2018). 13 benefits of taking fish oil. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-benefits-of-fish-oil
2 Baracos V. Let them eat fish. JAMA Oncol 2015;1(6):840-1
3 Todd N. (2019). Omega-3 fish oil supplements for heart disease. WebMD. Retrieved from
4 Bruera E, Strasser F, Palmer JL, et al. Effect of fish oil on appetite and other symptoms in patients with advanced cancer and anorexia/cachexia: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Clin Oncol 2003;21:129-34.
5 Bittiner SB, Tucker WF, and Bleehen S. Fish oil in psoriasis - a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Br J Dermatol 1987;117:25-26
6 Buckley M, Goff A, Knapp W. Fish oil interaction with warfarin. Ann Pharmacother 2004;38:50-2.
7 Neubronner J et al. (2011). Enhanced increase of omega-3 index in response to long-term n-3 fatty acid supplementation from triacylglycerides versus ethyl esters. Eur J Clin Nutr. 65(2):247-54.