What do you look for when selecting a fish oil? I look for potency and
freshness, plus the purity and consistency that comes from taking a
pharmaceutical-grade supplement. But I also want the comfort of knowing the
fish oil I am taking is sustainably sourced, so the benefits to my health
don’t have a negative impact on the health of the planet or the survival of
marine animals. The flash on the packaging that confirms a fish oil
supplement is ethically and sustainably sourced is as important to me as
the price. Two of the most important certifications to look for are from
Friend of the Sea and the Marine Stewardship Council.
Friend of the Sea
is an international, non-profit organisation dedicated to conserving the
marine habitat. It evolved from the Earth Island Institute's Dolphin-Safe
Project, which saved millions of dolphins from dying in tuna nets, and
pioneered the sustainable seafood movement. Only omega 3 fish oil and cod
liver products that originate from sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
are awarded the coveted Friend of the Sea certification. This shows the
products are ethically sourced using selective fish methods that do not
over-exploit fish stocks, threaten the marine food chain, or harm the
seabed or coral reefs. Looking for a Friend of the Sea certification on the
fish oil products you take helps to ensure the future of our oceans. Learn
more at www.friendofthesea.org
The Marine Stewardship Council
is an international, non-profit organisation that, like Friend of the Sea,
addresses the problems caused by unsustainable fishing, and works to
safeguard seafood supplies for the future. Their programme certifies the
sustainability of wild capture species such as krill, a shrimp-like,
Antarctic crustacean, which is a rich source of the long-chain omega 3s EPA
and DHA. Krill also contains two powerful antioxidants, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, which gives it its
distinctive red colour. The combination of omega 3 and antioxidants make
krill a popular ‘super-supplement’ for reducing inflammation.
krill, however, is also a vital component of the marine food chain. And,
like many people, I want to ensure that my use of krill oil supplements
does not impact the feeding grounds of marine wildlife such as baleen
whales, Antarctic fur seals and adelie penguins. A Marine Stewardship
Council certification guarantees this reassurance. Find out more at www.msc.org. Read more about Healthspan's stance on sustainable krill fishing here.
Benefits of sustainable oils made to GMP standard
Once they are ethically sourced, the best quality fish oils are carefully
tested and processed according to a pharmaceutical standard known as Good
Manufacturing Practice (GMP). This distillation reduces odour and ensures
purity; ensuring the oil is free from the marine pollutants that are
accumulated by some deep-sea predator fish.
What’s the best dose?
The UK's Food Standards Agency recommends a minimum intake of two portions
of fish per week, one of which should be oily.
This provides the equivalent of around 450mg per day of the beneficial,
long chain omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, but is very much a minimum
required for optimal health. Even so, few people achieve this. The average
adult only eats a third of a portion of oily fish per week
. For the 70 per cent of adults who eat no oily fish at all
, taking a fish oil supplement should be high on the agenda for long-term
What strength fish oil do you need?
It depends on how much seafood you eat, and the type. White fish, such as
cod, supplies only small amounts of DHA and EPA compared with oily fish
such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, for example. Cod liver oil
supplements, however, can be concentrated to maximise the levels of DHA and
EPA present, as well as providing beneficial levels of vitamins A and D.
· If you tend to opt for white fish, then a fish oil supplement providing
at least 300mg EPA/DHA per day will support your nutritional needs.
· If you rarely eat fish, then a higher strength supplement supplying at
least 600mg EPA/DHA is ideal for general health.
· If you have health concerns, then a super strength supplement providing
double this amount, or more, may be recommended to provide heart, brain,
eye and joint health benefits.
The European Food Safety Authority have confirmed that long-term intakes of
supplements providing up to 5g EPA plus DHA per day to not raise any safety
If you are pregnant, or trying to conceive, only take a fish oil
supplement designed for pregnancy. Supplements such as cod liver oil,
which contain vitamin A, are not recommended during pregnancy. If you
are taking a blood thinning agent, seek advice before taking a fish oil
Henderson L et al (2002) National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults
aged 19-64 years 2003