It is a fact that we need to source Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids from our diet. There are numerous benefits to taking these supplements such as reduced cardiovascular disease risk, reduced inflammation and improvement in mood and cognition. Here we review what is the best fish oil supplement to take and are there vegan essential fatty acid supplements? We also look at the sustainability of fish oils by category.
Your body cannot produce Omega 3 fatty acids (FA’s), and they are crucial for your health, so they must be sourced from the diet or supplemented.
How to incorporate Omega 3s into your diet.
The main source of dietary Omega 3 is fatty fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna which contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and therefore provide the most benefit. Most types of seafood will also contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Good non-fish sources of omega-3 oils include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, soybeans and soybean oil. Just keep in mind that in order to get the Omega 3 absorption and benefits from flaxseed or chia seeds, they need to be ground.
For adults, eating two to three servings of omega-3-rich fish a week are recommended. A serving size is about 100 grams, or about the size of a deck of cards.
Not a fan of eating fish? Supplementation is an easy.
Fish oil supplements are easy to find and purchase, but there are some things that you need to check when making your purchase:
- Quantity and type of omega-3: Many omega-3 supplements often contain little, if any, EPA and DHA -- the most important types of omega-3, so make sure your supplement contains these.
- Look at the amount of EPA and DHA as well. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 300 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day, 200 mg of which should be DHA.
Types of Fish Oils:
Standard Fish Oil
Usually derived from cold water fatty fish such as Salmon, but sometimes sourced from sardines or cod liver. These usually have a standardised amount on EPA/DHA as stated on label. Palatability can be an issue due to fishy aftertaste or tablet causing fishy reflux. The size of these tablets can also be a challenge for some people to swallow.
Sustainability: There are concerns that not all companies source the fish from sustainable fish-farming practices. There are also concerns regarding the accumulation of toxins, such as mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) due to the fatty nature of the fish being able to “hold on” to these contaminants.
Verdict: Good, all-rounder that provides the least expensive option for an anti-inflammatory supplement. Make sure that you buy these supplements from a reputable supplier that farms the fish in a “clean” environment.
Krill are small shrimp crustaceans. Krill oil also contains Astaxanthin which is an excellent antioxidant. This form of fish oil contains both phospholipid and triglyceride Omega 3’s so it is supposed to be easier to absorb by the body.
Sustainability: Krill oil is sourced directly from the open ocean feeding grounds in the Atlantic Ocean. Studies suggest Antarctic krill stocks have fallen by 80% since the 1970s. The concern is that Krill represent a key food source for fish, birds, and whales, so over harvesting Krill could potentially have an impact on the marine ecosystem. Apparently, Krill harvesting is regulated to protect marine environments by The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) but Greenpeace disagrees that the natural ecosystem isn’t being impacted.
Verdict: The sustainability issue is up to you but from a purely nutritional perspective the antioxidant content can it make it a better choice for those who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. The tablets are often smaller and easier to swallow, which can be an important factor for those who have trouble swallowing fish oil capsules, and no reports on fishy after taste. It is often more expensive than fish oil, but worth it from a nutritional perspective, but there is concern about the sustainability of this product.
Green-Lipped Mussel Supplement
The green-lipped mussel is native to New Zealand. It contains a unique Omega 3 eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), as well as EPD / DHA. ETA is a rare Omega-3 FA that may have a more potent anti-inflammatory effect than EPA / DHA. Not only contain EFAs – (EPA and DHA), but also glycosaminoglycans including chondroitin sulphate that is very beneficial to joints and the skin.
Sustainability: Green lipped Mussel is also the most Eco-sustainable option, as it is farmed or harvested with no environmental impact, and free of contaminants and impurities that can be a cause for concern in standard fish oils.
Verdict: This supplement can be the best choice for musculo-skeletal inflammation, such as arthritis and would also be the most beneficial for the skin. It comes in powdered and tablet forms so if swallowing tablets is a no-go for some people this is the best option. This is also the most expensive option compared to standard fish oil supplements.
Last, but not least - Vegan EPA / DHA Supplement
There are now supplements being made from marine microalgae, that have a high amount of DHA, as well as EPD, and Vitamin D. The obvious benefits are that they are vegan and do not present any sustainability issues as they come from microalgae “farming”. These types of supplements are marketed as Vegan EPA / DHA supplements and are pretty easy to find now in retail pharmacy or online.
So, the decision is yours to make, but any way you look at it, you either obtain Omega 3 EFAs from your diet or from a supplement but at least now you can make a very informed decision.