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The good oil on fish oil...

1 Feb 2014 3:43 PM - Why you might need fish oil and how to choose a good one...
Fresh fish

Most people know that fish is good for them but for a variety of reasons, many people eat little or no fish.

Fish, especially oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and tuna contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids essential to our health, especially Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).  Fish also contains useful protein and essential vitamins and minerals but it is the EPA and DHA which are most often researched for their health benefits.

If you are eating oily fish a couple of times a week as part of an overall healthy and balanced diet you may not benefit from a fish oil supplement.  But, what if you aren't....

What are the benefits of fish oil?

EPA has been shown to be beneficial for maintenance of cardiovascular health and healthy triglyceride levels (triglycerides are measured as part of your cholesterol screening), reducing inflammation, improving joint flexibility, and aiding emotional wellbeing.

DHA is shown to be beneficial for cognition, learning, memory, healthy aging of the mind, eye sight, positive effects on the nervous system, improving mood and behaviour. It is important in pregnancy, childhood development and for overall emotional wellbeing.

Fish oil supplements vary in their total amount of EPA and DHA as well as the ratio of EPA to DHA. So, if you are taking a fish oil supplement, make sure you are taking one best suited to your particular needs (i.e. do you need more EPA or DHA).

What to consider in choosing a fish oil…

As well as considering the ratio of EPA and DHA there are a number of other factors you should take into account when choosing the supplement right for you. These include:

Freshness this is affected by time from catch to processing as well as exposure to air during processing and bottling. Like other oils, fish oil can go rancid (through oxidation or exposure to air). If in doubt about yours, break a capsule and smell it. There should be no unpleasant odour. You should be able to take a fish oil (liquid or capsule) without fishy aftertaste.

Purity fish can accumulate heavy metals, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). When the oil is extracted, it is purified. There are Australian standards required for most (but not all) contaminants. All Australian manufacturers should comply with these standards but some go even further to ensure an even more pure product.

Added anti-oxidants usually in the form of mixed tocopherols to protect against oxidation

Natural triglyceride structure – It's a bit technical but basically some fish oil products are produced with a synthetic triglyceride as part of their chemical structure, whereas others maintain the natural triglyceride is more stable and better absorbed

Encapsulation some capsules are formulated with plastic or acrylic compounds while others avoid the use of these chemicals

Sustainability of supply If you are concerned about environmental issues, make sure you choose a brand which promises the use of sustainable supply.

Dosage The percentage of EPA and/or DHA in your fish oil product can vary from brand to brand.  Some 1000mg capsules contain as little as 300mg EPA/DHA meaning you may need to take more of them in order to ensure you are getting the required therapeutic dose of active ingredients.

So, what does this all mean?

Fish oil supplements can provide significant health benefits (if your diet is lacking) but you need to ensure you are taking the right ratio of EPA and DHA and in the right amounts for your particular needs or you won’t feel those benefits and you may be wasting your hard-earned money.

There are dozens of different supplements on the market so ask questions and choose wisely.  Avoid the bulk containers as the capsules are more likely to go "off" before you finish them.  And it's a good idea to keep them in the refrigerator, especially over the warmer months, again to maintain freshness.

At LaVida Health I only use “practitioner strength” treatments. You can be assured of quality and therapeutic effect when your fish oil is prescribed on the basis of your specific needs as part of a naturopathic consultation.


Got any questions?  Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.  I'm always happy to answer questions.

In good health,


Kaye Wright
Naturopath
Melbourne CBD


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