I recently gave a workshop, and the most commonly asked questions revolved around fish oils.
Ever since researchers noted that native sub-actic populations were quite stout and yet didn’t have many of the chronic diseases of industrialised society, fish oil has been in the research pipeline. The results of 20+ years of publications, on balance, point to fish oil having big health benefits chiefly through its potent anti-inflammatory effect (helping with everything from cardiac disease and mental health, from skin conditions to arthritis).
However, for years I’ve told most of my clients that while they think they have this base covered, the junk they’re buying at the chemist or supermarket store isn’t helping. Now a recent study highlights that fact.
This study compared the effectiveness of 4 different types of fish oil, including concentrated (and more expensive) fish oil, cheaper concentrated fish oil, cheap krill oil and unconcentrated salmon oil.
The more expensive concentrated fish oil was found to be far, far more effective.
Furthermore, it is worthwhile remembering that fish oil can go rancid - even in capsules. So if you are buying a big bottle of fish oil that was sitting in the bargain bin outside the chemist for some time, and then that sits on your kitchen bench for even longer, then chances are it has gone off on the inside. Rancid fish oil actually CREATES inflammation in the body, the exact opposite of what you want.
You can check the freshness of your fish oil by biting into a capsule. If it tastes like fresh fish, then you are probably OK. If it tastes bitter, rancid or unpleasant, then it might not be that good for you. I often recommend fish oils that you take off the spoon as you can always taste whether it is OK, and you also get a good therapeutic dose that way.
There are many other factors to consider when buying fish oil - including the ratio of EPA/DHA (types of fatty acids) - differences here help us know whether your fish oil is best for mental health or cardiovascular health for example. If you are going to shell out on a supplement, then you might as well get the one which is formulated for the particular effect you are after.
Of course, it is always good to get your fish oil from fresh fish as well. Some varieties are better than others, but that is a whole other blog post (or kettle of fish, so to speak!).
Next time you are in for a consultation, feel free to ask me for a recommendation on the fish oil best for you. I am not aligned with any particular manufacturer or supplier, so happy to provide an unbiased recommendation.
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist