Fish oils are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to boost heart health, improve mood, and reduce joint inflammation.1 Fish oil generally contains two forms of omega-3s: DHA and EPA, which are found in shellfish and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and trout. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of low-mercury fatty fish per week,2 but if you don’t like the taste of fish or are not a fan of cooking it, a fish oil supplement can help you meet your omega-3 needs.
Omega-3 fish oil supplements may even be beneficial for the whole family. Omega-3s support neurodevelopment during pregnancy and infancy, and protect against childhood allergies and may improve ADHD behaviors. They can even reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease throughout one’s lifespan.1
Choosing a high-quality fish oil supplement is essential to ensure you’re not consuming harmful ingredients like mercury. There are many options and forms on the market to help you meet your needs, including gummies, capsules, and liquids.
What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement
Fish oil usually features two types of omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA. In supplement form, these omega-3s come as triglycerides or are refined into ethyl esters, which allow chemists to adjust the specific DHA and EPA concentrations.
Some research suggests that triacylglycerides (another name for triglycerides) are absorbed better than their more processed ethyl ester counterparts.3 For the most absorbable omega-3s, look for the terms FFA (free fatty acids), TG (triglycerides), or rTG (re-esterified triglycerides) on the label.
To ensure you’re getting high-quality omega-3 fatty acids without any harmful contaminants or chemicals like mercury, choose a clean, sustainable, third-party tested fish oil supplement. Note that governmental fish oil quality standards don’t exist in the United States.
Look to the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED), the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS), and California’s Proposition 65 for voluntary guidelines. Certifications such as Marine Stewardship Council, Friend of the Sea, GOED, and IFOS assure that products meet these high standards for purity, potency, and freshness.
Some fish oils contain complementary, fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin D that work with omega-3 fats to boost health. When selecting a fish oil supplement, consider all ingredients on the label, making note of any possible allergens, and discuss them with your health care provider.
Fish Oil Supplement Dosage
Always speak with a healthcare professional before adding a supplement to your routine to ensure that the supplement is appropriate for your individual needs and dosage.
While there are no defined recommendations for fish oil supplements specifically, there are Adequate Intakes (AI) for Omega-3s based on age and gender. AIs for Omega-3s, established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (NASEM), are as follows:4
- Birth to 12 months: 0.5 grams for both males and females (Note: Both breast milk and many formulas contain omega-3s as ALA, EPA and DHA)
- 1-3 years: 0.7 grams for both males and females
- 4-8 years: 0.9 grams for both males and females
- 9-13 years: 1.2 grams for males and 1.0 grams for females
- 14- 18 years: 1.6 grams for males and 1.1 grams for females
- 19+: 1.6 grams for males and 1.1 grams for females
- Pregnant women 1.4 grams and lactating women 1.3 grams
While you can get all three types of Omega-3s (ALA, DHA, EPA) from whole foods, supplementation may help to meet your daily goals. For reference Omega-3 supplements usually contain around 1,000 milligrams of fish oil, including both EPA and DHA and other omega-3s.