How to Choose a Quality Fish Oil

By Ken Marshall, MS, ND

When it comes to omega-3 fish oil supplements, not all products are created equal. A high-quality product offers all of the clinically-researched benefits of omega-3s. An inferior product can mean exposing your body to unwanted toxins or oxidative rancidity, with few beneficial results.

Never fear. With a bit of education, you can be confident about shopping for an omega-3 supplement by knowing what differentiates a high-quality fish oil supplement from the rest.

Of utmost importance in a good fish oil is freshness. A fresh product will not only taste great, but also, will be more effective. Since fish oil, like fish, begins to deteriorate as soon as it is exposed to oxygen, look for products that are processed in an oxygen-free environment.

Purity goes hand-in-hand with freshness. Because of environmental contaminants, all fish oils must be purified during processing. Starting with fish species that are naturally low in toxins and sourced from clean waters (wild caught sardines, anchovies, Arctic cod, Alaskan salmon) is the first step. Gentle, chemical-free, reduced-heat processing results in excellent purity levels.

Of course, purity and freshness can be proven. Some manufacturers have their products tested by independent agencies and make the test results available upon request. Don't be afraid to call and ask for the test results on the products you are considering.

Once you have determined that a product is fresh and pure, there is another important quality to look for. How well will your body absorb the oil? Obviously, the benefits of omega-3 nutrition can only be enjoyed if your body actually absorbs these essential fatty acids. The natural, molecular form of fish oil is called the "triglyceride form." Many fish oil products are manufactured in a new-to-nature ethyl ester form. Look for the triglyceride form, which has been shown to be up to 70% better absorbed by the body.

Potency is another consideration. Experts recommend a daily dose of at least 500 mg of the combined omega-3 essential fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). People with specific health challenges are advised by their doctor to take 2–4 grams a day. Don't just look at the milligram size of the soft gel, check product labels to be sure you're getting adequate levels of EPA and DHA.

Ultimate Omega® by Nordic Naturals® is an example of a high-quality fish oil. A concentrate in the triglyceride form, it contains 650 mg EPA and 450 mg DHA. Third-party test results proving industry-leading purity and freshness levels are available for every bottle. Nordic Naturals has been committed to sustainability since its founding in 1995.