Taking fish oil? Are you noticing results?
When it comes to feeling the benefits of any omega-3 supplement, getting an effective dose of the right kinds of fatty acids is crucial.
Grab your supplement (if you’re taking one) and keep reading to discover whether your fish oil is potent enough to make a difference for you.
When we talk about the power of omega-3 fatty acids, the entire omega-3 family tends to get lumped into the same category. Sorry folks: Not all omega-3 molecules function the same way, and some are more effective than others.
The term “omega-3” is actually an old-fashioned classification referring to a whole family of omega-3 fatty acids. The main workhorses of this family are EPA and DHA, two long-chain fatty acids that (among other functions) promote the exchange of nutrients across the cell membrane and control the body’s inflammatory response.
For the last 40 years, scientists have extensively researched the effects of EPA and DHA on everything from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure to positively impacting mood disorders, cancers, joint problems, and dry eyes. Newer studies are also looking at how these fatty acids influence our gut bacteria.
EPA and DHA are found almost exclusively in fresh fish and fish oil. Certain plants sources – like walnuts and chia seeds – contain a shorter-chained omega-3 fatty acid called ALA. While our body has enzymes that convert ALA into EPA (and to some extent DHA), this conversion rate is so low that most scientists consider it inconsequential. This is why the strength of an omega-3 supplement is typically measured by the amount of EPA and DHA alone.
You’ll often see scientists referring to EPA and DHA as having a dose dependent effect. This means that the effects of these fatty acids are related to the amount consumed.
People often think that getting a little bit of omega-3 is better than nothing at all. Unfortunately, current research does not substantiate this. Clinical studies frequently demonstrate that a certain threshold dose must be met for the supplement to make a difference – and this dose is typically much greater than the recommended amount on fish oil supplement labels.
One of biggest misconceptions with taking fish oil is the dose necessary to produce results. In this video, Dr. Bo Martinsen explains why taking one or two fish oil capsules rarely provides enough omega-3s.
– For anxiety, a recent meta-analysis showed significant clinical benefits for doses greater than 2000 mg EPA/DHA daily (but not at doses below that mark).
– In reviews focusing on the anti-inflammatory benefits of omega-3s, researchers similarly find that it typically takes more than 2000 mg EPA/DHA to demonstrate effects at the cellular level.
– Doses that cancer patients use in conjunction with radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are often even higher.
Here at Omega3 Innovations, we regularly see this “dose response effect” in action. Customers frequently share that they notice a significant difference for their aching joints or itchy eyes when they increase their dose to 3000 mg EPA/DHA daily.
One vial of Omega Cure Extra Strength contains 3000 mg EPA/DHA and can be taken with other foods or enjoyed straight. Photo credit: Bowl Obsessed.
The amount of omega-3 that a person needs will vary depending on a number of factors, including diet, genetics, lifestyle, age, body weight, health condition, and the bioavailability of the omega-3 product. (And today, most of us can also assess our individual needs by taking a quick and easy blood test).
One thing is certain, however: Most of us need more omega-3s than we think we do.
An estimated 95% of Americans do not have optimal omega-3 levels. And even amongst omega-3 supplement users, only 19% of omega 3 supplement users achieve adequate omega-3 index scores, according to some surveys.
Part of this reason revolves around supplements containing deceptively low omega-3 doses. Many fish oil capsules advertise that they contain 1000 mg of fish oil. However, since natural fish oils typically contain just 30% EPA and DHA combined, that means you’ll only get 300 mg of EPA/DHA per capsule.
At that dose, you would need to swallow 7 regular fish oil capsules just to cross the 2000 mg EPA/DHA threshold.
The best way to discover how much omega-3 is available in your fish oil supplement is to look at the EPA and DHA levels listed in the supplement facts. If you don’t have your omega-3 product handy, we’ve done the work for you by calculating out the number of servings necessary to get 2000-3000 mg EPA/DHA for typical supplement categories. Keep in mind that specific products will vary depending on the brand, source, and the freshness level of the oil.
If you can’t imagine swallowing all those fish oil pills, you’re not alone. That’s why alternatives to capsules – like liquid fish oil – exist. For instance, Omega Cure® Extra Strength delivers 3000 mg of EPA/DHA in pre-measured, single-dose vials and has no fishy taste or smell. Similarly, Omega Cookie® delivers 2000 mg of EPA/DHA (plus prebiotics in the form of beta glucan fibers).
Increasing your intake of fatty fish is another great way to get enough EPA and DHA omega-3s. If you go down that route, pay attention to the fish species and whether it’s wild caught or farm raised. Also pay attention to how you prepare your fish so you don’t lose the majority of omega-3s during the cooking process.
Most people around the world – especially in the USA – get far too little omega-3. If you happen to go on an omega-3 binge, however, the European Food Safety Authority has concluded that consuming up to 5000 mg of omega-3s daily is safe.
While dose is one of the most important elements in making an omega-3 regimen work, you also have to be concerned about the quality of your supplement.
Freshness greatly impacts an omega-3 product’s potency and safety profile. Unfortunately, rancid omega-3 oil is rampant, with multiple independent studies showing that many omega-3 products exceed industry freshness standards at the time of purchase.
As an omega-3 supplement oxidizes, the amount of EPA and DHA in the oil decreases, meaning that you’re likely getting far less omega-3 than the labels suggests.
More concerning are the damaging effects that rancid oil can have on your body. Recent studies have determined that oxidized fish oil has a negative impact on cholesterol levels and increases the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and poor health outcomes during pregnancy.
In the world of fish oil, peroxide values measure an oil’s freshness level. Generally speaking, the lower the peroxide value, the fresher the oil is.
It’s also important to consider the fatty acid composition of the oil. Natural fish oils contain a cocktail of fatty acids (including omega-3, 6, 7, 9, and 11) and at least 9 different types of named omega-3s. While EPA and DHA may be considered the two most potent fatty acids, all of these other molecules work in synergy with EPA and DHA to influence our health and wellbeing.
Unfortunately, many omega-3 products are chemically manipulated in ways that distort this delicate fatty acid balance through winterization and/or concentration. Just like drinking filtered orange juice is nowhere near as healthy as eating a fresh orange, research indicates that the more an omega-3 oil is processed, the less potent and bioavailable it becomes. This is why it’s important to look for omega-3 products that are non-winterized (full-spectrum) and minimally processed.
Once you begin taking a potent omega-3 product every day, noteworthy results can start to happen. But, it’s also important to keep in mind that increasing your intake of omega-3s is not a quick fix. It can take up to 3 months to saturate your cells with these beneficial fatty acids.
Here at Omega3 Innovations, we’re dedicated to making products that help our customers feel a marked difference, which is why we created Omega Cure Extra Strength. Each pre-measured vial contains 3000 mg EPA/DHA so you never have to second guess whether you’re getting an effective daily dose. And thanks to our exceptional freshness levels, none of our products have a fishy taste or smell.
As we like to say in Norway, ‘Skål!’ (That means “cheers to your health”).
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