Which Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement Should You Buy?

Fish oil is one of the most important nutritional supplements that you can take to maintain your health. In this article, you will learn how to be absolutely sure that you are getting a safe and effective fish oil supplement. You will also find out how to decide which fish oil supplement is formulated in a way that best suits your specific health needs.



Fish oil is an abundant source of Omega 3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA. These Omega 3 fats offer a wide range of health benefits. They help you lower risk of stroke and heart attack; they promote brain health, and decrease the level of inflammation in your body.

Fish oil is the most widely used Omega 3 supplement. Most common sources of fish oil are small species of fish, such as sardines, menhaden, and anchovies or wild, uncontaminated species, like Alaskan cod and Pollack.

On this webpage, you will find:

  • An overview of top-rated fish oil manufacturers
  • Things you should be careful of when buying fish oil products
  • How to choose the product that best suits your needs
  • A list of high quality fish oil supplements, differentiated by target population (adults, kids, pregnant and breastfeeding women), potency (concentration), and the composition of Omega 3 fatty acids in the supplement

Review of Top 7 Fish Oil Manufacturers

Fish Oil Regulating Organizations

Main concern about fish oil safety is contamination with environmental toxins, heavy metals, and mercury. This issue is addressed during the production process by something called molecular distillation. This enables the manufacturers to purify the oil and remove contaminants from fish fat.

Fish oil safety is regulated by several different organizations – IFOS, European Pharmacopoeia, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), and the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega–3 (GOED).

Of these organizations, IFOS is the one, which is perhaps the most well known. IFOS is short for the International Fish Oil Standards Program. It is the only third party testing and certification program for fish oils regarding their oxidation values, purity, and concentration. You can take a look at IFOS reports at their homepage: http://www.nutrasource.ca/ifos/.

IFOS performs tests for selected batches of fish oil products. The products are then ranked into different categories – ranging from 1 star to 5 star rating.

Most of the manufacturers (with the exception of Nature Made, which is not included in the IFOS testing program) presented n this website consistently reach a 5 star IFOS rating for fish oil freshness and safety (they are below limits set for peroxides, heavy metals, PCB, dioxins, and mercury).

These manufacturers also adhere to the fish oil safety standards set by the other 3 regulating organizations: European Pharmacopoeia, CRN and GOED.

‘Pharmaceutical Grade’ Fish Oils

When you are looking at fish oil labels, you will often come across a phrase ‘pharmaceutical grade’. This term doesn’t really mean anything. It doesn’t set any standards regarding concentration or purity. It is merely a marketing phrase that is used for promoting Omega 3 fish oils and any manufacturer can put it on their label, regardless of the oil’s quality or potency.

Here is the comparison of 7 well-known manufacturers of fish oil supplements:

1. Nordic Naturals

Fish oil source: wild caught fish, including Arctic cod (Skrei) from Norwegian waters; anchovies and sardines from the Southern Pacific Ocean; and salmon (Pink and Sockeye) from Alaska's Cook Inlet.

Production process: molecularly distilled, purified, nitrogen (oxygen–free) manufacturing process

Form: triglyceride

Antioxidants: mixed tocopherols (vitamin E) and rosemary extract

Nordic Naturals is a fish oil manufacturer that comes from Norway. They are specialized, which means that they are focused only on the production of Omega 3 products –they don't manufacture anything else.

They produce their fish oil products in nitrogen environment. This enables them to process fish oil without oxygen present, which in turn prevents oxidization of lipids. They offer Omega 3 oils with exceptional freshness grades. Nordic Naturals fish oils also include a blend of natural antioxidants – a mix of tocopherols (vitamin E) and rosemary extract.

Their fish oils contain Omega 3 fatty acids in triglyceride form. Omega 3 fatty acids on the market come in 2 forms – ethyl ester form and triglyceride form. The later is much more potent, since the human body is able to absorb more of it. However, it requires a step more in the production process, so it is usually more costly than the ethyl ether Omega 3 supplement.

Nordic Naturals oils are regularly used in fish oil research by universities and independent laboratories, including Harvard University, Stanford University, UCLA, National Institute of Health (NIH), and others.

See their product range at Amazon: Nordic Naturals Omega 3 Supplements

2. NutriGold

Fish oil source: wild-caught Pacific fish (Alaskan Cod, Pollack)

Production process: molecularly distilled, purified

Form: triglyceride

Antioxidants: mixed tocopherols (vitamin E)

NutriGold offers a wide range of nutritional supplements, including Omega 3 supplements, different vitamins, minerals, probiotics, herbs, and other nutritional supplements.

Fish oil supplements are one of their best sellers.  They use molecular distillation to purify fish oil and remove the toxins. During the production process they add different tocopherols (vitamin E) to ensure that the oil doesn't go rancid.

NutriGold fish oil supplements contain Omega 3 fatty acids in triglyceride form.

See their product range at Amazon: NutriGold Omega 3 Fish Oil

3. Nature Made

Fish oil source: deep cold water fish - anchovy, sardine, mackerel (no farm fish)

Production process: molecularly distilled, purified

Form: ethyl ether

Antioxidants: (tocopherol

Nature Made is a large manufacturer of nutritional supplements. They are proud of the fact that their fish oil products are the number 1 Omega 3 supplements recommended by US pharmacists (US News & World Report - Pharmacy Times Survey).

They offer different types of Omega 3 supplements – differentiated by the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids per serving, form (soft gel or liquid), taste, target population (kids, adults), etc.

Their fish oil products have been verified by the USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) for quality, potency, and purity.

Nature Made are the only manufacturer presented on this website that doesn't submit their product to IFOS for a review. As a result, their omega 3 supplements don't have an IFOS rating.

Nature Made offers quality fish oil products for a competitive price. 

See their product range at Amazon: Nature Made Omega 3 Supplements

4. Carlson Labs

Fish oil source: Norwegian cold water fish

Production process: molecularly distilled, purified, nitrogen flush for bottling

Form: ethyl ether

Antioxidants: (d-alpha tocopherol) natural vitamin E

Carlson Labs is another Norwegian manufacturer of Omega 3 supplements. They are a family owned business, run by two sisters Carilyn Anderson and Kirsten Carlson.

Carlson Labs produce fish oil since 1982 and they have received several awards for high quality.

They make their fish oil products out of local Norwegian cold water fish. They have strict internal quality control and each batch of their products is tested by an independent 3-rd party laboratory.

Carlson Labs fish oils come mainly in ethyl ether form, which is cheaper to produce than triglyceride form. They offer both liquid and soft gel products, ranging from normal strength to ultra concentrated products. Their primary brand of fish oil products is called 'The very finest fish oil'.

Browse through their fish oils at Amazon: Carlson Labs Omega 3 Supplements

5. OmegaVia

Fish oil source: anchovy, menhaden, sardine, and mackerel from Peru and USA

Production process: molecularly distilled, purified, critical CO2 extraction

Form: ethyl ether

Antioxidants: sunflower tocopherol and rosemary extract

OmegaVia products are manufactured in California, USA, from fish oil that comes from Peru and USA. Their products are regularly tested by 3rd party laboratories. Their production process involves molecular distillation and low heat extraction using critical CO2.

OmegaVia specialize in ultra concentrated supplements. This means that you are able to take fewer pills to get the needed daily amount of Omega 3 fatty acids – OmegaVia capsules contain more Omega 3 fats than the prescription pill Lovaza.

OmegaVia manufacture quality supplements for those who need higher doses of Omega 3 fatty acids.

OmegaVia at Amazon: OmegaVia Fish Oil Soft Gels

6. Norwegian Gold by RenewLife

Fish oil source: anchovies, sardines, salmon, mackerel, and tuna (Norwegian Sea and the Southern Pacific)

Production process: Molecular vacuum distillation or supercritical CO2 distillation

Form: ethyl ether

Antioxidants: mixed tocopherols

Norwegian Gold is a brand of fish oil supplements that is produced by RenewLife. RenewLife was founded in 1997 by nutrition expert Brenda Watson. It now offers a wide range of nutritional supplements; including a line of Omega 3 supplements.

Norwegian Gold is a part of the IFOS testing program and continuously receives 5 star ratings for its fish oil products. It offers a range of Omega 3 products, including kids Omega 3, prenatal supplements, normal strength and ultra strength Omega 3 supplements.

See their product range at Amazon: Norwegian Gold Fish Oils.

7. Life Extension

Fish oil source: anchovy, mackerel

Production process: molecular distillation

Form: ethyl ether

Antioxidants: mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract, sesame seed lignans, olive fruit extracts

Life Extension is a manufacturer of nutritional supplements, including Omega 3 supplements. Their fish oil products are part of the IFOS program and receive high (5 star) rankings.

Life Extension add sesame seed lignans to their Omega 3 supplements, which help guard against lipid peroxidation, thereby prolonging the shelf life of fish oil. They also use additional antioxidants derived from olive fruit and leaf.

Life Extension at Amazon: Life Extension Omega 3 Supplements

Fish Oil Supplements - Which One to Buy?

There are lots of different Omega 3 supplements on the market. Let’s take a look at what you must consider before you decide which one is best for you.

1. Safety

When you are buying fish oil, the most important thing that you should take into account is safety.  You must make absolutely sure that you are buying fish oil that is without environmental contaminants and toxins, such as traces of heavy metals, mercury, dioxins, and PCB.

 You must also ensure that the oil has good freshness grades, since rancid fish oil is in fact pro-inflammatory and very detrimental to your health. This means that the manufacturer must use special production process, which doesn’t involve heat, and add extra antioxidants (tocopherols) to finished product so that the oil doesn’t oxygenize.

Don’t rely on what it says on the label as many overhyped phrases are used in the marketing of fish oil.  Many products that are sold in convenience stores and even some in pharmacies have high peroxidation levels and didn’t go through tests for contaminants. Always check that the manufacturer can prove the safety of each batch of their products with independent, 3-rd party tests results or an IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) report.

The best way to make sure that you are getting a safe and high quality fish oil product is to buy from an established manufacturer.

All manufacturers that are featured on this website continuously exceed standards of fish oil safety, freshness, and potency set by the regulating organizations.

2. Target population

There are different fish oil formulations for different target groups – adults, kids and babies, pregnant and breastfeeding women, etc. These formulations differ in potency (amount of Omega 3 fatty acids) and in proportions of different fatty acids in the supplement.

There are 2 main types of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are put into Omega 3 supplements – EPA and DHA.

Supplements for the healthy adult population, usually contain balanced proportions of these 2 fatty acids.

Supplements for children are similar in composition to the ones for the adult population; they, however, contain lower amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids per serving.

Supplements for breastfeeding and pregnant women have more DHA than EPA since this is the Omega 3 fatty acid, which is essential for the development of the baby’s brain and retina (part of the eye).

This also goes for Omega 3 supplements for babies – they contain more DHA than EPA (some even contain only DHA).

3. Health Conditions

Your choice of Omega 3 supplement depends largely on your health needs.

Everyone will benefit from taking an Omega 3 supplement. Omega 3 fatty acids are needed for maintaining health and ensuring the normal functioning of the body. The usual dose for healthy adults is 500 mgs of Omega 3 fatty acids per day – a balanced combination of both EPA and DHA.

If you are taking Omega 3 supplements for relieving symptoms of disease, you will need higher doses of Omega 3 fatty acids and correct proportion of these acids in your supplement.

Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplements for the Healthy Adult Population

These supplements deliver the recommended daily dose for a healthy adult in 1 serving per day. They usually contain a balanced combination of both biologically important Omega 3 fatty acids - EPA and DHA.

An Overview of Top Rated Normal Strength Fish Oil Supplements

1. Ultimate Omega (Nordic Naturals), soft gels

 

Omega 3 fatty acids in triglyceride form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1000 mg

Omega 3 fats: 640 (EPA 325 mg, DHA 225 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 90 mg)

Nordic Naturals - Ultimate Omega, 1000 mg, 180 softgels

 

2. Carlson Labs Super Omega 3 Gems, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.000 mg

Omega 3 fats: 600 mg (EPA 300 mg, DHA 200 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 100mg)

Carlson Labs Super Omega-3 Gems, Fish Oil Concentrate, 1000mg, 250 Softgels

 

3. Nature Made Fish Oil, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form. You will need 2 soft gels per day.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.500 mg

Omega 3 fats: 360 mg (EPA 180 mg, DHA 120 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 60mg)

Nature Made Fish Oil Omega-3 1200mg, 300 Softgels

 

4. Norwegian Gold Daily Omega, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.200 mg

Omega 3 fats: 660 mg (EPA 198 mg, DHA 124 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 108mg)

If you decide to get this Omega supplement, your daily serving should be 2 soft gels to get the needed amount of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Norwegian Gold Daily Omega, 60-Count

 

5. Life Extension Super Omega 3 EPA and DHA, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 2.500 mg

Omega 3 fats:  678 mg (EPA 350 mg, DHA 250 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 78mg)

Life Extension Super Omega-3 EPA and DHA with Sesame Lignans and Olive Fruit Extract

 

6. Carlson Labs Elite Omega 3 Gems, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.500 mg

Omega 3 fats:  800 mg (EPA 400 mg, DHA 300 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 100mg)

Carlson Labs Elite Omega-3 Gems Fish Oil Soft Gels, Natural Lemon Flavor, 120 Count

 

Our Recommendation 1-a-Day Omega 3 Supplement

These are all quality fish oil products, so it is hard to recommend which one is best.

There is a lot of positive feedback with the Ultimate Omega by Nordic Naturals. This is not surprising as they are among the industry leaders and known for their dedication to innovation and quality.

Alternatively, we can recommend Carlson Labs Super Omega-3 Gems.

The manufacturer, Carlson Labs, has a long history of producing fish oil products (since 1982). Each batch of their Omega 3 fish oils is tested by IFOS for purity and potency and they unfailingly receive 5 star ratings. At the same time, their products (especially liquids) have an excellent price to quality ratio, so they are well suited for the long-term Omega 3-s consumer.

Fish Oil Omega 3 Supplements For Specific Health Conditions

If you take Omega 3 supplements for relieving the symptoms of disease, your needs exceed the usual 1-a-day Omega 3 supplement. This means that you will need to take several normal strength pills per day or get a stronger, more concentrated product (these supplements are sometimes called ultra strength Omega 3).

Omega 3 supplements have been shown to help with different diseases, including:

Heart disease and elevated blood pressure  

People who are suffering from heart disease and high blood pressure usually take about 1.000 mg of Omega 3 per day (a combination of EPA and DHA)

Elevated triglycerides

People with elevated triglycerides take between 1.000 and 4.000 mgs per day.  You should start with 1.000 mgs and slowly increase the dose – until the target blood triglycerides level is reached. This will require having blood test every couple of weeks until you settle on to your long term dose.

Inflammatory and auto-immune disease

Omega 3-s help with a long list of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, psoriasis, IBS, Crohn’s, back pain or any other inflammation related pain, CFS, etc.

The dose for these conditions is usually 1.000 to 2.000 mgs per day. Typically, inflammatory diseases respond better to Omega 3 formulations that contain higher proportions of EPA (this Omega 3 fatty acid is known for its anti-inflammatory effect).

Anxiety, depression, mood disorders

If you are taking Omega 3 supplements for mood disorders, anxiety, or depression, your dose should be between 1.000 to 3.000 mgs per day. Again, the emphasis is on EPA as it has been shown to help specifically with brain inflammation.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

All pregnant women should get the Omega 3 fatty acids dose for healthy adults, while taking extra care that they get at least 250 mgs of DHA per day.

An Overview of Top Rated Ultra Strength Fish Oil Supplements

1. OmegaVia Pharma Grade Fish Oil, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.500 mg

Omega 3 fats: 1.105 mg (EPA 780 mg, DHA 260 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 65mg)

OmegaVia Pharma-Grade Fish Oil

2. Nutrigold Triple Strength Omega-3 Gold, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in triglyceride form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.250 mg

Omega 3 fats: 1.060 mg (EPA 750 mg, DHA 250 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 60mg)

NutriGold Triple Strength Omega-3 Gold

 

3. Ultimate Omega  Liquid (Nordic Naturals)

Content per serving (1 teaspon – 5ml):

Total fats: 5.000 mg

Omega 3 fats: 2.960 mg  (EPA 1.450 mg, DHA 1.060 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 450mg)

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega Liquid

 

4. Carlson Labs Very Finest Fish Oil, liquid

 

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per serving (1 teaspon – 5ml):

Total fats: 4.500 mg

Omega 3 fats: 1.600 mg  (EPA 800 mg, DHA 500 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 300mg)

Comes in orange and lemon flavor.

Carlson The Very Finest Fish Oil Liquid Omega-3 Lemon

 

5. Carlson Labs MedOmega Oil, liquid

 

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per serving (1 teaspon – 5ml):

Total fats: 4.000 mg

Omega 3 fats: 2.800 mg  (EPA 1.200 mg, DHA 1.200 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 400mg)

Comes in orange and lemon flavor.

Carlson Labs - MedOmega Fish Oil

 

6. Nature Made Ultra Omega 3 Fish Oil, soft gels

Omega 3 fatty acids in ethyl ether form.

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.500 mg

Omega 3 fats: 1.400 mg (EPA 683 mg, DHA 252 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 65mg)

Nature Made Ultra Omega-3 Fish Oil

 

Our Recommendation

If you are taking Omega 3 supplements for relieving the symptoms o disease, you will need to find your optimal dose.

Start at the lower end of the recommended dose for your condition and build your way up gradually. This means that you should keep a diary of your symptoms and adjust your dose every couple of weeks until you find the dose that suits you best.

Above, we’ve presented a couple of quality ultra strength Omega 3 fish oils.  Here is a brief overview:

Omega 3 supplements for heart condition, high blood pressure or elevated triglycerides

If you have any of these conditions, you will need to get a fish oil supplement with a balanced combination of EPA and DHA. Such supplements are:

All these supplements are top quality supplements; they differ in concentration and in form (Carlson Labs offer 2 supplements in liquid form and the one from Nordic Naturals is in soft gel form). 

Omega 3 supplements for relieving the symptoms of inflammation, auto-immune disease, anxiety, depression, dementia, etc.

For these conditions you will need a fish oil supplement that containshigher proportions of EPA than DHA.

Supplements that contain higher doses of EPA are:

All these supplements are formulated specifically to fight against inflammation (they also help with brain inflammation, so they can be used for brain-related conditions).

OmegaVia and Nature Made supplements are both in ethyl ether form, while the Nutrigold Triple Strength soft gels are in triglyceride form.

This means that you should see faster results with the Nutrigold Omega 3 as in the short run triglycerides have been shown to have greater absorption in the human body.

In the long run, the absorption is about the same – just make sure that you take your Omega 3 supplement with a fatty meal (fats increase the release of bile, which in turn helps your body to absorb more of the Omega 3-s that you consume).

Omega 3 Prenatal Supplements

Prenatal supplements usually put more emphasis on DHA than on EPA. Studies have shown that DHA is crucial for the development of the baby's brain, nervous system, and visual acuity.

DHA is also important after birth. If you are breastfeeding, you need to make sure that you are still eating enough DHA as you baby is getting Omega 3 fatty acids from your milk. Babies who are not breastfed get their DHA from the infant formula (most formulas contain DHA and also ALA, which is another Omega 3 fatty acid).

1. Prenatal DHA (Nordic Naturals), soft gels

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 500 mg

Omega 3 fats: 290 mg  (EPA 45 mg, DHA 225 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 20mg)

Nordic Naturals - Prenatal DHA Soft Gels

 

2. Carlson Labs Mother's DHA, soft gels

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 1.200 mg

Omega 3 fats: EPA 100 mg, DHA 200 mg

Carlson Labs Mother's DHA

 

3. Norwegian Gold Prenatal DHA, soft gels

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 800 mg

Omega 3 fats: EPA 24 mg, DHA 480 mg

Renew Life Norwegian Gold Prenatal DHA

 

Our Recommendation

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need to consume enough Omega 3 for themselves as well as for the growing baby. This means that they should get the usual dose for the healthy adult (500 mgs of combined EPA and DHA), as well as extra DHA that goes to the baby for the development of the baby’s nervous system and cells in the retina (part of the eye).

Most of the supplements available today either have a balanced combination of both EPA and DHA or are high in EPA (which acts anti-inflammatory in the body).

To get enough DHA, we recommend that these women get their 1-a-day Omega 3 supplement plus an extra DHA rich supplement.

Omega 3 Supplements for Kids and Babies

Fish oil supplements for babies and children usually contain Omega 3 fatty acids in lower concentrations. These supplements come in different forms, but the main 2 forms are liquid supplements and chewable gums. Baby supplements are drops, which you put into your baby's food.

1. Carlson For Kids Very Finest Fish oil, liquid

Content per serving (1/2 teaspon – 2.5ml):

Total fats: 2.500 mg

Omega 3 fats: 800 mg  (EPA 400 mg, DHA 250 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 150mg)

Comes in orange and lemon flavor.

Carlson Laboratories - Kids Very Finest Fish Oil Lemon

 

2. Renew Life Norwegian Gold Kids DHA, soft gels

Content per capsule:

Total fats: 250 mg

Omega 3 fats: EPA 25 mg, DHA 100 mg

Renew Life Norwegian Gold Kids DHA

 

3. Nordic Naturals Baby's DHA, drops

Content per 5ml:

Total fats: 5.000 mg

Omega 3 fats: 1.050 mg  (EPA 350 mg, DHA 485 mg, other Omega 3 fatty acids 215mg)

Nordic Naturals Baby's Dha

Suggested dose:

Body Weight              Dose                                    

5–10 lb                          1.0 mL

11–20 lb                      2.0 mL

21–25 lb                      3.0 mL

26–30 lb                      4.0 mL

 

Our Recommendation

Omega 3 daily intake recommendations for babies and children have not yet been established. That is why it is best if you consult with your pediatrician before you start your child on a fish oil supplement. They will advise you on the correct dosage and possible interactions with any other supplements or medications that your child might be taking.

 



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Comments (3)

  • OmegaVia
    By

    OmegaVia is, at the moment, offering 3 different types of omega-3 supplements. Two of those (OmegaVia EPA 500 and OmegaVia DHA 600) are indeed Triglyceride based. But they have another product, called OmegaVia (combining different types of omega 3 fatty acids), which is ethyl ester based.

    Apr 25, 2016
  • Good Information
    By

    Great information about bets fish oil. I am working as a content writer , so your articles will help me to write my next project. I am printing this page.thank you.

    Regards
    Zuly Zonova

    Aug 31, 2016

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