How to Choose the Right Fish Oil

Fish oil capsules

By: Warren Maginn-Functional Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Educator

It’s more than likely that you have come across the term ‘fish oil’. Hailed for its health giving properties and benefits, we’ve been told countless times to add it into our daily routine, but with so many options on the market how are we possibly supposed to know which one is right for us?

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are indeed essential for optimum health. Because our bodies cannot produce these nutrients, they are deemed ‘essential’ and must be consumed daily through diet or supplements. Fish oil is derived from the fatty layers of cold water fish and is rich in long chain omega-3 fatty acids i.e. eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the main two ‘active’ omega-3s. They promote a healthy immune response and can also help optimise heart, brain, circulatory, metabolic and joint tissue health.

The concept of people taking supplements in a liquid or capsule form in order to meet daily requirements has become the norm in modern society, however when it comes to choosing the fish oil that is right for you there are a few things to consider:

  1. The Company
    When searching for a supplement, keep in mind that an effective omega-3 supplement should also be supported by scientific evidence and testing. A reputable brand will offer easily accessible and robust scientific studies that provide evidence to support the efficacy and quality of their supplements, and each supplement itself should have surpassed third-party testing to meet the international standards for purity and freshness.
  1. Purity
    Ensure that the ingredients in the supplement are purified, and stripped of impurities such as heavy metals, dioxins and PCBs through various natural processes. It is also important to consider whether the fish have been sourced from clean or polluted waters. All quality manufacturers should employ techniques to ensure the purity levels of the final product in order to meet the fish oil safety and purity standards established by organisations such as:
  • The Council for Responsible Nutrition
  • European Pharmacopeia Standard
  • The Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED)
  1. Sustainability
    Supplement companies need to have sustainable manufacturing methods. For instance, fish oil brands need to follow safe fishing practices, in healthy, well-managed fisheries, to avoid over-fishing and endangering species. Whatever supplement you are considering, be sure that the way the manufacturer sources the product is in line with reputable sustainability practices.
  1. Bioavailability
    Opt for fish oil manufactured in the natural, triglyceride form (rather than “re-esterified” fish oil) as it will be more easily absorbed. The ability to absorb the benefits of fish oil is based on the molecular shape of the fatty acids. Choose one that comes in the triglyceride molecular form for optimal absorption to ensure that you are receiving maximum benefits and value.
  1. Freshness
    Immediate processing is essential. Consider the time from when the fish are caught to when they are delivered to the processing facilities. The less time, the greater the raw material maintains its freshness. It is also important that an oxygen-free, nitrogen-rich atmosphere is used during all stages of handling to minimise any exposure to oxygen that might degrade the product. Nitrogen ensures that the fish and oil can be protected from the oxidative rancidity that causes an unpleasant fishy smell and taste, along with an increased generation of free radicals in the body. Your fish oil should be easy to take and have a great taste, proving its safety and freshness.

By: Warren Maginn

BHSc. (Nutr. Med.), GradCert. (Hum. Nutr.)

Functional Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Educator


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Always read the label. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.