It is rare these days that a new patient comes into my office and ISN’T already taking fish oils but not all fish oils on the market are equal.
Do you know if your fish oils are actually helping you?
This is a very typical fish oil supplement label:
When you look at this label you’ll notice where it says “Fish Oil” in the left column, then look to the right and you’ll see the value of 1000 mg. This information is not very important but fools many people into thinking they are getting an adequate dose when they may not be. The part you want to pay attention to is below that. The EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) amounts. These are your therapeutically active ingredients of the fish oil. These two acids are what will activate the anti-inflammatory pathways in your body and provide therapeutic benefit. If these numbers when added together are too low, then you will derive little to no benefit from taking fish oils.
With the above label as our example, if you add the mg of EPA and DHA together you get 300 mg per softgel. The typical recommended daily intake on most labels is 1-3 softgels per day. If you were to take 2 softgels of this particular fish oil per day you would get about 600 mg of combined EPA and DHA. This is the minimum therapeutic recommendation for cardioprotection. What that means is that if you have an already healthy blood pressure and heart function, this dose may marginally help maintain it.
If you DO NOT have a healthy blood pressure or heart function or you are hoping to affect other outcomes with fish oils, the minimum therapeutic recommendation is 1000 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day. At that amount you would need to take 4 softgels per day of the above product.
If we are talking about mood improvement, or reducing joint inflammation and increasing ease of joint movement you would need at least 2500 mg of combined EPA and DHA per day. This would mean 9+ softgels per day of the above product to see your desired benefits.
And that’s not all…when considering an appropriate fish oil supplement you may want to consider the ratio of the EPA to DHA in the product. This ratio can also affect your therapeutic outcomes particularly in the case of mental health. This is something I would recommend you seek care for as opposed to trying to wade through on your own.
So… even though most of us view fish oils as a fairly benign supplement (i.e. won’t do you any harm), they may not really be doing you any good.
What you need to look for:
Whether you just want a good anti-inflammatory product or are looking to improve heart health, skin health, mood, or joint mobility the amounts and doses do vary but these are the top considerations to make before buying.
Third party testing
Make sure the company you are purchasing from does third party lab testing before AND after product formulation to ensure the fish oil is free of contaminants, heavy metals, and oxidation; This is also to ensure identity and potency, meaning that what it says on the label is what you are ACTUALLY getting in the bottle (this is NOT always the case).
Do your math
Check the label carefully and add up the EPA and DHA values to see how many softgels you will need per day to average a dose of 2000-3000 mg/day. While each case comes with different factors, this is the dose range that shows the best therapeutic outcomes but always follow the next point before making any changes…
Talk to a professional
If you feel uncertain, are on medication, have a diagnosed health condition(s), are pregnant, or breastfeeding talk to a professional before trying out any new supplement. This is to ensure your safety but also to save yourself from wasting your money on supplements that are not doing anything for you.
If you need guidance or want to make an informed choice, schedule a free discovery call with me. There is no obligation and I can help point you in the right direction on your journey to better and lasting health.
Dr. Kim Gowetor
Naturopath Sherwood Park
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