Omega- 3 supplements
Looking at the Label
Amounts of EPA and DHA
When looking at omega-3 supplements the main number labelled is usually the total fatty acid content but you need to look at the nutrition labelling on the back to check the specific EPA and DHA content. For example, 1000mg fish oil tablets may contain 270mg EPA and 180mg DHA. This adds up to 450mg and will put you in the intake range for general health.
Forms of EPA and DHA
For best absorption look for omega-3 in the form of Free Fatty Acids (FFA), Triglycerides (TG) or Phospholipids (PLs) and avoid in the form of Ethyl Esters (EE).
Choosing an Omega-3 supplement containing an antioxidant such as Vitamin E may help to reduce the risk of the oil going off (rancid).
Types of Supplements
Cod Liver Oil
Only around 30% of cod liver oil is EPA and DHA although it also contains fat soluble vitamins such as A and D.
Fish oil often contains high levels of EPA and DHA due to concentration in processing. This process also eliminates contaminants such as mercury. Fish oil may go off (rancid) quickly so check the use by date and store according to labelled directions.
Omega 3 capsules are popular as they provide fish oil in an easy to swallow capsule with limited fish burps. The capsule can mask rancidity so cut one open from time to time and check for the tell tale fishy smell.
Green Lip Mussel Oil
Green Lip Mussels are native to New Zealand. They provide Omega-3 fatty acids in well absorbable forms.
Omega-3 fatty acids are just as well absorbed from krill as from fish. They are more resistant to rancidity due to a naturally occurring antioxidant.
Algae is where Omega-3 fatty acids start before they are eaten by the fish that typically provide us with these fatty acids. They are particularly high in DHA. Algal supplements are great for those who don’t want to consume fish products and they are thought to be environmentally friendly.
- You should check supplement labels for EPA and DHA amounts and forms.
- Check use by dates, smell and for antioxidant ingredients for signs of rancidity
- You can get Omega-3 fatty acids from cod liver oil, fish oil, omega-3 capsules, green lip mussel oil, krill oil or algal supplements.
Can you have too much Omega 3 Fatty acids?
As of yet there is no safe upper limit established for EPA and DHA. By supplementing within recommended amounts you are unlikely to have any adverse effects providing you are otherwise healthy. However, omega-3 fatty acids can act as a blood thinning agent. Whilst this may be useful in protecting against cardiovascular disease it may not be helpful for those with blood clotting disorders or those on pharmaceutical blood thinners (10). Please consult your Doctor for individualised advice.
- If you have blood disorders or are on blood medications please talk to your medical health professional before supplementing.