Choosing the Right Fish Oil Supplement for You
We know that fish oil containing omega 3s can bring numerous health benefits, and for most people, it's part of their daily supplement routine. But did you know that even with fish oil supplements, there are still various considerations to take into account when choosing the right form of omega-3s for you? Out there floating about in the market are hundreds of different omega-3 supplements just waiting to be picked - however, not all of them have the same health benefits and advantages. Let us explore how best to select the fish oil supplement for you!
Fish oil is available in both processed and natural forms. It is vital to note that processing can affect the form of the omega-3 fatty acids which can alter their ability to get absorbed into our bodies. Studies have shown that processed products may contain omega-3 in a form that may not be easily absorbed well.
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Natural Fish Oil
This is the oil that originates from the tissue of oily fish, contains several critical nutrients, and can be easily absorbed into our bodies. Examples of the most common sources of natural fish oil are sardines, salmon, herring, menhaden, and cod liver. These oils are also available in capsule or liquid form and contain a type of omega-3s called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) ranging from 18–31%.
Processed Fish Oil
These are often cheaper and are usually available in capsules. However, depending on the different forms of processed fish oil, your body may not absorb it as effortlessly in comparison to natural fish oil. Some manufacturers may take that extra step to improve its ability to be absorbed by our body and concentrating processed fish oil can increase the EPA and DHA levels up to 50–90%. But as a result, these fish oil supplements may be much more expensive.
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Hold up, I think we have missed a beat. What is EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)?
These fancy-sounding substances are essentially a type of omega-3s. EPA is beneficial to promote heart health as it can reduce blood pressure, triglycerides, and inflammation. It can also aid in decreasing joint pain and assist with cartilage recovery. Additionally, it enhances our immunity and reduces unwanted stress on our cells thereby decreasing cell damage.
On the other hand, DHA is found to be helpful to improve eye health and it supports the functioning of our eyes. Found in high levels in our brain, it is also incredibly useful in supporting and increasing the efficiency of brain responses. Given its large role in our brain, it can also help to improve mood, memory, motivation, and learning ability along with other positive cognitive effects.
As such, consumption of DHA and EPA omega-3s ensures that you cover various health aspects of your body.
So what do we have to check to ensure that we buy quality goods?
Always check the labels first to see what it contains and the expiry date. You do not want to be buying a bottle containing 60 capsules that may only have an exaggeratedly short lifespan of 3 days. Additionally, you want to find out:
- Type of omega-3 it provides
- The type of omega-3 that you want is called EPA and DHA because these are the components of the supplements that will haul in all those health benefits you have read about.
- The amount of omega-3 contained
- Yay! The supplement has the magic words EPA and DHA on it. But don’t stop there and be sure to check how much of it makes up one capsule. One capsule may contain 1000mg of fish oil but when you peek at the sign on the back, it states that it only provides 320 mg of EPA and DHA.
- Form of omega-3
- To ensure that your body is happy to absorb the omega-3s, look for the labels that say FFA (free fatty acids), TG, rTG (triglycerides and reformed triglycerides), and PLs (phospholipids), instead of EE (ethyl esters). Now, if these complex names are getting your head dizzy - I’m entirely with you. It is more than sufficient for you to understand that among all these forms of omega-3s, you want to avoid the EE form of omega-3s because your body will have difficulty trying to get that in.
- Authenticity and purity of the product
- The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) represents the worldwide EPA and DHA omega-3 industry and helps to check the quality and standard of omega-3 supplements. Safe to say that if the bottle in your hand has fulfilled the GOED standard for purity, it’s more than good to go!
- If you can’t find any mention of GOED, scan for any other third-party seal that indicates the quality of the product. If you want to go a step further, you can check for the credibility of the third-party’s seal but oftentimes if it's there, the supplements are also considered to be safe for you.
- In the Malaysian environment, you may have a hard time finding any of these labels due to differences in the brands that dominate the market. If you are concerned about the authenticity and purity of the product, chatting with the pharmacist to ask a few questions can be incredibly helpful to ascertain its suitability for you.
- Sustainability of the supplements
- With the current issues revolving around climate change and sustainable fishing, as much as we can, we should endeavor to do our small part in hopes of making a big change. If possible, try to go for fish oil supplements that are certified by MSC, the Environmental Defense Fund, or any other similar organizations. This will aid to ensure that our cute fishes from which our fish oil originates will always be with us for the years to come. Admittedly, in the Malaysian market, these labels may be a rarer find so don’t sweat it if you have ticked off all of your other boxes in our checklist.
- The freshness of the product
- Omega-3s can go rancid - in fact, they are very prone to it. Once they do go bad, they will have this awful stench and become less potent. Consumption of rancid products may even be harmful, so apart from checking the expiry date, it would be good to make a habit of noting the odour to see if it's all good to be eaten.
Want to see our selection of fish oil at GEM Pharmacy? Well, come on to our online store here and have a look to see if anything catches your attention! For any further questions, feel free to reach out to us, and when in doubt, always refer to a healthcare professional.