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Editor & Reporter

Hi, My name is Kevin (learn more about me here) and welcome to this site.

As Editor and Reporter for, I've researched the health benefits of natural oils and tried to present you the most accurate and current information for enhancing your health with these products.

Thank you for visiting and I hope you find this site helpful and informative.


My Guide to Buying the Best Fish Oils

buying fish oilsIf you’re thinking of buying fish oils then you need to know how to choose the best one that will meet your needs.  Research has proven that regular intake of the essential fatty acids found in fish oil is required to maintain optimal health.

You may think that all fish oils are the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. Using a poor quality fish oil may not give you the results you seek and may actually increase your risk for side effects.

I’ve been using fish oil supplements for a number of years and have tried a lot of different products.  While I’m not an expert, I hope this information will help guide you in the right direction.

Here you’ll find 5 main factors to consider when choosing to buy the best fish oils….  


1.  What’s the Fish Source for the Fish Oil?

The kind of fish species used to make the fish oil, and where they’re caught, can have an effect on the quality of the fish oil. 

Cold water fish tend to have naturally higher omega 3 fatty acids levels than fish living in warmer waters.  This is because the bodies of cold water fish require more omega 3 fats to keep their cell membranes flexible and pliable in the frigid cold waters.

Also, salmon, herring and mackerel tend to have higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, compared to sardines and anchovies.  Certain fish species, such as Sole and Yellow fin tuna, are reported to contain the lowest amounts of omega 3 fatty acids.

So if you’re buying a fish oil made from one type of fish, you may be better off choosing fish oil made from salmon, herring or mackerel for the higher omega 3 fatty acid concentrations found in these particular types of fish.


2. How was the Fish Oil Made?

Fish oils are primarily made by two methods:  molecular distillation and a refinement process:

1.  Molecular distillation uses a vacuum and high temperatures to produce an ethyl ester of the omega 3 fatty acids.

Ethyl esters are actually omega 3 concentrates created by replacing the natural triglyceride fatty acid in the omega 3 fatty acid chain with an ethanol chain.   Molecular distillation produces a highly-purified pharmaceutical-grade fish oil that’s usually more purer than a standard fish oil.

Omega 3 concentrates tend to cost more than regular fish oils but you’ll usually get a higher dosage of the omega 3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in these types of products.

However, there’s conflicting reports on how efficiently our bodies can absorb the ethyl ester form of omega 3 fatty acids.  Some studies have shown there’s no difference between the absorption rate of triglycerides and ethyl fatty acids, and there’s other studies claiming ethyl esters have a lower lower absorption than triglycerides (which is the form of ‘standard’ fish oil products).


2.  Refining Oils is another method used to make fish oils.  The refinement process uses soap bases, bleaches and deodorization to remove contaminants, unwanted odors, colors and flavors to make the fish oil.  In fact, you could actually call the refinement process the ‘old school’ method because it was the most popular method of purifying fish oils before molecular distillation was invented.

Refined oils are usually more affordable than molecularly distilled fish oils, but you tend to get a lower dosage of EPA and DHA.    While refining fish oils does meet the minimum purification levels recommended for these types of products, it can’t match the ultra-purification attained through molecular purification achieved through distillation.

I’m a little on the fence about this one as I like the higher concentrations and purity achieved through molecular-distillation, but I have no way of knowing how well my body actually absorbs these types of products over the more ‘traditionally’ refined fish oils.


3. Are Your Fish Oils Third-Party Tested or Certified for Purity?

chemistWhen buying fish oils, you should ideally choose products with the highest purity levels. In most countries, the fish oil industry is not completely regulated by Government or Health Agencies. Therefore, you need some method of reliable testing to ensure the product meets certain criteria for freshness and purity.

The best way to determine the fish oil purity is to use products that have been 3rd party tested with documented laboratory testing or use fish oils that come with a Certification of Analysis.

Consumers Reports suggest the best supplements should follow minimum standards set forth by International organizations, including the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CNR), European Pharmacopoeia and International Fish Oils Standards (IFOS). Manufacturing companies based in other countries may follow their own nationally set standards.

Here’s an example of standards set forth by the International Fish Oil Standard, Council for Responsible Nutrition and the European Pharmacopoeia:

  • Mercury – less than 100 ppb (parts per billion)

  • Arsenic – less than 100 ppb

  • PCB’s – less than 90 ppb

  • Lead – less than 100 ppb

  • Dioxins and Furans – less than 2 parts per trillion

  • Omega 3 fatty acids – at least 60% concentration

Products marketed as ‘pharmaceutical-grade’ may follow some of the above standards, however, the term is not a regulated and any manufacturer could claim their product falls under this category.

Lovaza is one of the few prescription fish oil supplements that meets FDA guidelines and marketed as an omega 3 esterified supplement.

ifos fish labelOne popular method for testing these supplements is the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS). This is a private third party lab that analyzes omega-3 products for many popular nutritional supplement companies.

The IFOS will test for omega 3 concentrations and contaminant levels and provides many of these test results to the general public.

Some products offer laboratory test results on their company website; other companies may provide a batch number printed on each bottle that will allow you to research the actual test results for that particular batch.


4. Learn How to Calculate your Omega 3 Fatty Acid Concentration

When it comes down to it, the only reason you would take fish oils is for the health benefits of the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Buying fish oils that provide the high concentration of omega 3 fatty acids per dose will help you get the most benefits from your supplement. These products come in a variety of different doses, but the most popular dosage is the 1000 mg fish oil soft gel.

You may think that a 1000 mg. fish oil soft gel contains 1000 mg. of omega 3 fatty acids, but it doesn’t!   In fact, most standard 1000 mg. fish oil soft gels only contain about 30% omega 3 fatty acids.

Here’s how you calculate how much Omega-3 fatty acids per dosage:

  • Divide the amount of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) into the total amount per soft gel.

    For example, a 1000 mg. soft gel containing 300 mg. of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 200 mg. of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) would provide an omega 3 concentration of 30% EPA and 20% DHA.

  • The majority of basic fish oil pills provide a 30% concentration of omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

  • Look closely at the bottle label to determine how many soft gels are used to provide the listed ingredients. Some products may use 2 – 4 soft gels per dose to provide the promised dosage of omega 3 fatty acids on the label.

  • If you require a more highly-concentrated omega-3 supplement you can either take more soft gels of a lower concentration or use a high-potency fish oil supplement that provides a higher concentration of omega 3 fatty acids per dose.


5. When Buying Fish Oils should you Choose Soft Gels or Liquid Oils?

When you buy fish oils, you can get them in either liquid fish oils or soft gel capsules.  While you may think there’s no difference between the 2 forms, you’ll find there’s actually a difference in the dosages and how your body may absorb the active ingredients. 

Here’s a review of the advantages and disadvantages of both forms:

Liquid Fish Oils:

  • Usually provide a higher concentration of omega 3 fatty acids per dose.

  • May have a higher cost per bottle but generally provide a lower cost per gram of omega 3 fatty acids compared to most fish oil pills.

  • Should be packaged in dark bottles and should be refrigerated after opening to prevent possible light exposure and heat oxidation of the fatty acids.


Fish Oil Soft Gels:

  • Capsules offer a convenient way to package and transport the ingredients.

  • The pill form helps keep the oil from going rancid and prevents tampering with the product.

  • Soft gels are available as enteric-coated fish oil – a special coating that’s reported to help reduce fish oil side effects such as fish burps and gas due to poor gastrointestinal absorption.

  • Pill coatings may contain animal by-products, collagen, gelatin or other unwanted ingredients.

Whether you purchase liquid or pills, calculate the overall cost per pill or per ounce to get the most value for your money.  I prefer the liquid fish oils due to the higher omega 3 fatty acid per teaspoon, but I appreciate the increased absorption you’d get from using an enteric-coated fish oil soft gel.


Summary Review for Buying the Best Fish Oil Supplements:

  • Compare how much omega 3 fatty acids you get: Determine how many milligrams of EPA and DHA you get per dose. A 1000 mg. soft gel containing 300 mg. of EPA is a 30% concentration and a 1500 mg. tablespoon of liquid fish oil containing 750 mg. of EPA is a 50% concentration.

  • Calculate your Cost per Dose: Most liquid products will provide higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids per dose than soft gels. However, you can find high concentration soft gels that match or surpass many liquid supplements.

  • Does your product come with a Certificate of Analysis? The best supplements will provide a Certificate of Analysis or test results from a third party lab.  This will help you determine if there are any detectable levels of mercury, PCB’s, dioxins, furan and other contaminants in the product.

My Personal List of the Best Fish Oil Supplement Brands

Here are some high-quality marine oils that I think meet the minimum requirements for purity and potency. These products are made exclusively by companies that specialize in manufacturing omega 3 fish oil supplements:

Research References:

Beckermann B, Beneke M, Seitz I. (1990). Comparative bioavailability of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from triglycerides, free fatty acids and ethyl esters in volunteers. Arzneimittelforschung; 40(6):700-704.

Lawson LD, Hughes BG. (1988). Human absorption of fish oil fatty acids as triacylglycerols, free acids, or ethyl esters. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 52, 328-335.

Song JH, Inoue Y, Miyazawa T. (1997). Oxidative stability of docosahexaenoic acid-containing oils in the form of phospholipids, triacylglycerols, and ethyl esters. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 61(12):2085-8

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