Categories: Dose

How Much Omega-3 Fish Oil A Day Will Produce Results?

Anne-Marie Chalmers, MD
February 2, 2018

Taking fish oil? Are you noticing results?

When it comes to the effectiveness of any omega-3 supplement, there are three key factors you need to address:

1. Proper fish oil dosage

2. Freshness of the oil

3. Range of nutrients in the supplement

Please take a moment to go grab your fish oil supplement, if you’re taking one, and then keep reading to find out if your fish oil is living up to your expectations.

Determining Your Proper Dosage

Omega-3s are made up of a spectrum of nutrients, including EPA and DHA, two polyunsaturated fatty acids. EPA and DHA are the powerful workhorses of the omega-3 family, and have been researched extensively for their role in lowering triglyceride levels and blood pressure, improving mood and mental health, and helping reduce pain and inflammation.

To make a noticeable difference in your health, the daily fish oil dosage for adults should be from 2000 to 3000 mg of EPA and DHA combined. This level should be taken consistently, with food, for approximately 8 to 12 weeks before the effects will start to kick in.

Now, take a look at your omega-3 supplement. Add together the total number of mgs of EPA and DHA per serving. How many capsules per day do you need to swallow to reach that 2000 to 3000 mg mark? For most brands, the actual dosage that you need is significantly higher than the normal recommendation of 1 or 2 capsules listed on the bottle.

One of biggest misconceptions with taking fish oil is the dose necessary to produce results. In this video, Dr. Bo Martinsen explains the omega-3 dose deception, comparing how many fish oil and krill oil capsules you would need to swallow to equal the amount of EPA/DHA found in a salmon fillet.

Explaining EPA/DHA Efficacy Levels

Why is it necessary to look at the levels of EPA and DHA, as opposed to the total amount of fish oil? Remember that fish oils only contain a certain percentage of omega-3s, depending on the source of the oil, how it is processed and how fresh it is. Typically, a natural fish oil will contain at most 30% EPA and DHA combined. So if your capsule contains 1000 mg of fish oil, that means you are only getting 300 mg of EPA/DHA.

The reason we care so much about the amount EPA and DHA is that almost all medical research to date has focused on those fatty acids, even though they are not the sole members of the omega-3 family. Whenever a new study comes out showing benefits for fighting cancer, dry eyes and improving mental health, it is almost always the EPA and DHA that are being discussed.

However, research also shows that the benefits of EPA and DHA are dependent on the dose administered. In fact, numerous studies indicate that the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3s don’t kick in unless you consume at least 2000 mg each day. For certain conditions, like arthritis and high triglyceride levels, studies routinely use between 3000 to 4000 mg of EPA/DHA daily to see meaningful results. And for other diseases, like cancer, the dosages can go even higher.

Calculating the Right Serving Size

If you are not currently taking an omega-3 supplement, or just don’t feel like walking to the kitchen to get your capsules, never fear! We’ve done the math for you by looking at some common omega-3 products. Of course, products vary depending on the brand and the source of the oil. But, these numbers will give you the approximations for each category:

Product Type

Dose Per Unit

Servings to Achieve
2000 – 3000mg Dose

Regular fish oil capsule
~ 300mg EPA/DHA
 7 – 10 capsules 
High concentrate fish oil capsule
~ 600mg EPA/DHA
3 – 5 capsules 
Krill oil capsule
~ 75mg EPA/DHA
 27 – 40 capsules 
Teaspoon of cod liver oil
~ 1000 mg EPA/DHA
2-3 teaspoons
Serving of wild salmon
~ 2000 – 3000 EPA/DHA*
6 oz fillet

*Level of EPA/DHA depends on the fish species, the time of year, how the fish is prepared, whether it was farm raised or wild caught, etc.

If you are getting distressed looking at this table and imagining swallowing all those fish oil pills, remember there are alternatives to taking capsules. For instance, a fresh cod liver oil, like Omega Cure®, delivers 3000 mg of EPA/DHA in three teaspoons and has no fishy taste or smell.

Similarly, increasing your intake of fish is a great way to get enough omega-3s. If you do go that route though, you have to pay attention to the fish species and how the fish is prepared to ensure you don’t cook the majority of omega-3s out of your meal.

Can You Take Too Much Fish Oil?

Most people around the world, and in the USA especially, get far too little omega-3. But if you do go on an omega-3 binge, the European Food Safety Authority has concluded that consuming up to 5000 mg of omega-3s daily is safe.

How Fresh Is Your Fish Oil?

Now that you know the amount of fish oil you need, let’s turn our attention to the freshness level of the oil that you’re taking. This is important because freshness impacts potency and safety.

Unfortunately, rancid omega-3 oil is all too prevalent today. In fact, independent studies from around the world have concluded that the majority of omega-3 products exceed industry freshness standards at the time of purchase.

Rancidity is concerning from several perspectives. For one, as your omega-3 supplement goes rancid (or oxidizes), the amount of EPA and DHA in the oil also decreases. In other words, if your fish oil supplement is rancid, you are likely getting less omega-3 than the labels suggests.

More concerning though it that rancid oil can have damaging effects on your body. For instance, at least two studies to date have found that rancid fish oil has a negative impact on cholesterol levels, whereas fresh fish oil delivers the expected health benefits. Other studies have found that rancid fish oil can increase risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. To learn more on this important topic, read Rancid Fish Oil May Hurt More than Help, Research Shows.

In the world of fish oil, peroxide values measure an oil’s freshness level. While the omega-3 industry has stated that an omega-3 oil should never exceed a peroxide value of 5 mEq/kg, several international studies have determined that most brand far exceed that value at the time of purchase

Test for Rancidity

To figure out if your fish oil is fresh, start by doing a taste and smell test. All oil, regardless of initial quality, will oxidize with time and exposure to oxygen. But, if the oil is not heavily flavored, you will often be able to get a good sense of the quality by using your senses – just like you would fish or milk. Take one of your fish oil capsules and split it open. Smell and taste the oil. Fresh fish oil should have minimal to no smell. Long story short, if your fish dinner smelled and tasted that way, would you eat it? If the answer is no, toss the capsules.

Secondly, check to see if your oil lists a “Peroxide Value” or PV, which is an indicator of freshness in the omega-3 world. Scientists are still debating what an acceptable PV level is. But, as a general rule, the lower the PV number, the fresher the product. For instance, Omega Cure has a PV level of 0.1 – 0.3 mEq/kg at the time of bottling, making it about 80 times fresher than your typical omega-3 supplement.

Getting the Full Spectrum

Fish and natural fish oil contain a wide range of beneficial fatty acids. Besides featuring a cocktail of omega-3, 6, 7, 9, and 11 in the proper ratios, fish oil also contains at least nine different types of named omega-3s – from the aforementioned EPA and DHA to the lesser known ALA, DPA, SDA, and the likes.

All of these fatty acids and their derivatives flourish in natural fish oil and cod liver oil, providing a wide range of nutrients for the body to absorb and enjoy. In its natural state, fish oil should provide the same mix and fatty acid content as fish. But just as drinking filtered orange juice is not as healthy as eating a fresh orange, the more you process the oil, the less nutrients it eventually contains.

So how do you know if your current fish oil is full spectrum or not? Unfortunately, it is hard to determine unless your fish oil manufacturer is upfront about their manufacturing processes. But there may be clues. Read their websites to determine the source of their oil and check the supplement facts. If you see any mention of concentrates, pharmaceutical grade, or prescription omega-3, then the answer is probably ‘no.’

For more information about getting a full-spectrum oil, read Full-Spectrum Fish Oil: Why It Matters to Omega-3 Consumers.

Feeling the Difference

Increasing one’s intake of omega-3s is a wonderful way to improve health, be it for dry eyes, arthritis, or lowering triglyceride levels. But if you are hoping to experience results, it’s important to pay attention to the dose and quality you are getting with your supplement.

If you haven’t already, try Omega Cure. With the lowest oxidation levels on the market, it is the freshest omega-3 oil available. And with no fishy taste or smell, it is easy to enjoy in juice or yogurt or drink straight. You can learn more about how Omega Cure is made here.

An Effective Omega-3 Dose, Made Simple

Get 3000 mg EPA/DHA per serving.

Learn More

Anne-Marie Chalmers, MD

Born and raised in the United States, Dr. Chalmers graduated from Brown University and completed her medical training at the University of Oslo in Norway. Dr. Chalmers practiced medicine for many years, serving both at high-tech hospitals and as a community health worker in rural Norway. Together with Dr. Martinsen, she later co-founded Wellpride LLLP dba Omega3 Innovations and is the joint holder of several patents that facilitate the ingestion of multiple medication combinations. Today, she serves as the president of Omega3 Innovations.

View Comments

  • Hi, my mom bought fish oil capsules for me the other day. I just consumes it without knowing that taking 3 capsules everyday can give me a good effect or not. Based on the prescription, each softgel capsule contains 1000 mg fish oil (18%EPA/12%DHA). Is it okay that i just need take 2 or capsule per day?

    • Hi Faren, If you are taking just 2 - 3 capsules of your current product daily, you aren't getting more than 600 - 900 mg of EPA/DHA. As we explain in the article, the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3s don't kick in unless you consume at least 2000 mg of EPA/DHA each day. Given that number, your current dose is probably too low to see any concrete results.

      If you are interested in getting the full benefits of an omega-3 product, make sure you are getting an effective dose and a truly fresh fish oil. You might also enjoy reading these Customer of the Month stories, which talk about the benefits people experience when they do those two things:

  • According to the table provided in this web page, one teaspoon of liquid cod liver oil contains ~ 1000 mg of EPA/DHA. Is it safe to conclude that one can take 7 to 10 capsules of 300 mg cod liver oil (for example, 7 Seas Cod Liver Oil 300mg or Seacod brand 300 mg) as a dietary supplement to achieve daily intake of 2000 – 3000mg Dosage?

    Although in India, brands like 7 Seas & Seacod recommends 1-2 capsules of 300 mg thrice a day, most brands in the UK and elsewhere recommends one 1000 mg cod liver capsule per day. I am worried if it is overdose for an adult to take 2 capsules of 300 mg cod liver oil thrice a day. Can you please throw some light on this please?

    • Hi Shivashankara,

      There are few health issues associated with taking fresh fish oil. Studies routinely use large doses without documenting any negative effects, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that consuming up to 5000 mg of EPA/DHA per day is safe.

      We aren't in a position to comment on the quality and freshness level of your brand. But in general, the reason omega-3 brands typically recommend just 1 - 2 capsules daily is not because there is harm in taking more, but because that is the dose most people are willing to swallow. You do, however, want to make sure that the product you are taking is fresh because if it is not, you may experience some unpleasant side effects. For more on that, we recommend reading this article:

  • Hi there, I currently take Icelandic cod liver oil in liquid form as you have recommend here. The current brand I use (Im in the UK) provides 920mg of EFA/DHA per teaspoon. However, it also provides 800ug (micro grams) of vitamin A per teaspoon. According to your information here I would need 3 teaspoons per day to see the anti-inflammatory response. However, this would be providing me with 3 times the recommended daily dose of vitamin A (4 times if I include my multivitamin). I am concerned about toxicity from vitamin A and D overdose although the internet is awash with different values.

    Can you please advise how someone can get the benefits of cod liver oil without risking toxicity?

    • Hi Nicolas, It is true that unpurified cod liver oils contain high values of vitamin A. But the amount of vitamin A in a cod liver oil brand will vary significantly, depending on if the oil was purified, the purification techniques used, and if vitamin A was added to the oil by the manufacturer.

      For instance, our Omega Cure, which is a uniquely fresh, full-spectrum cod liver oil, contains limited amounts of vitamin A because of how it has been purified. At the moment, our oil is not available in the UK, but if you are unhappy with the amount of vitamin A in your current brand, you might consider exploring other omega-3 options.

  • This is not comment but a question. On the bottle of fish oil capsule it is written for better health from 3 to 12 capsule daily with food. in the bottle there are 200 capsule. But for how long one should take these capsule. Is this for whole life, or is this for winter season only or is it one bottle once a year. on the bottle this literature is not clear. I am living in Pakistan, here even doctors have no clear concept. Please inform me about the correct doze daily and for how many weeks.

    • Hi Nisar, This is a tough question to answer because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, to answer you generally, most people need to be conscious about their omega-3 intake throughout their life. This is particularly true if you eat a typical Western diet heavy in processed foods and low in fish. That being said, you also need to be concerned about the quality of your omega-3 supplement if you continue consuming capsules. Please read: Is Your Fish Oil Rancid?

  • Hi ,
    can u suggest me whether my 6o years old father can have the omega 3 fish oil capsule or not ?
    If yes then what is the recommended serving size ?

    • We generally recommend that people seek out a fresh liquid omega-3 oil, like Omega Cure, instead of capsules. Liquids are easier to swallow and they make it easier to get an effective daily dose. In addition, Omega Cure is much fresher than the oil you find in regular fish oil capsules. However, for specific recommendations for your father, we advise you to contact a medical professional who can evaluate him in person.

    • Hi Ileana,

      Yes, every batch of Omega Cure is purified to remove mercury and other pollutants. After the purification process, it is third-party evaluated in Norway to ensure the oil meets all government and industry standards for contaminants.

  • Hi there! Informative article, but my doubt is that I am consuming a product of Omega 3 1000 mg capsules (2 per day) which contains around 330 mg of EPA and 220 mg of DHA. How many capsules can i take per day actually? Or is this dose Sufficient to cure skin diseases?

    • As we discuss in the article, to impact any kind of inflammatory issue, studies indicate that it typically takes a dose of around 2000 - 3000 mg of EPA/DHA per day to see results. That would be about 4 - 6 capsules of your current product daily, given the dosage you described.

      That being said, we can't tell you that swallowing 4 - 6 capsules of your current supplement is going to be effective. As the article also mentions, whether the oil is fresh and full-spectrum will impact results. And additionally, the type of skin disease and individual differences will also play a role.

  • Hi. How much Omega 3 to take to raise my HDL level ? The total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL level are OK. Only the HDL is low 35 mg/dl.

    • Hi Robert! While the triglyceride-lowering benefits of omega-3 supplements have been well documented, the data is less consistent with regards to LDL and HDL levels. Likely, this means that other factors, like the freshness level and the fatty acid composition of the supplement, will have a stronger impact on the results.

      That being said, when we survey some of the research on omega-3 supplements and HDL levels, studies have reported modest increases when using doses ranging from 2000 - 4500 mg of EPA/DHA. Most of the studies are in the 4000 mg range.

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