03.Popping a pill
Two serves of oily fish costs around $10 a week, whereas a supplement costs just $2.30 a week or less; needless to say, fish oil capsules are growing in popularity. If your diet doesn’t contain enough oily fish, buy the one with the highest amount of EPA and DHA, or be prepared to take more than one capsule per day and/or supplement your intake with diet:
Note: Just because a product contains 1000mg of fish oil does not mean it contains 1000mg of EPA and DHA. Swisse Wild Salmon Oil contains 1000mg of salmon oil per capsule, but only 80mg each of DHA and EPA. This supplement contains the least omega-3s for its price, so always check the DHA and EPA content.
Nature’s Own Odourless Omega-3 Super Strength for Heart contains the highest amount of DHA and EPA (603mg) of all the supplements we looked at.
Blackmores Omega-3 Daily Odourless Concentrated Fish Oil is not the cheapest supplement on the market, but it does have a high amount of long-chain omega-3s (600mg per tablet) and has been deodorised.
- You’ll need to take two tablets of the cheapest brand, Healthy Care, to get the same amount of DHA and EPA found in one capsule of the Nature’s Own product, but because it’s a budget brand, these two tablets still cost less than one Nature’s Own. It hasn’t been deodorised, so it may leave a fishy taste.
- Many other supplements contain on average 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA, a total of 300mg per tablet. One tablet alone won’t meet your daily needs, so you need to supplement your intake with food, or take two tablets.
Vegetarians and omega 3s
Vegetarians and vegans have substantially lower levels of DHA in their bodies than meat and fish eaters. Supplementation with large amounts of ALA has been found to increase EPA levels but not DHA, which is needed in the brain and retina. As such, direct sources of DHA are needed.
Omega-3 supplements can also come from microalgae, a plant source that’s acceptable for vegetarians and vegans. However, we couldn’t find a microalgae supplement, even after speaking to a pharmacist and contacting manufacturers. Until they become more available in Australia, vegetarians and vegans need to rely on the conversion of ALA or import microalgae supplements from the UK or US.
What about our oceans?
Getting long-chain omega-3s from fish or fish oil supplements has environmental implications. Commercial fishing has sucked more than 90% of the world’s predatory fish from the oceans, resulting in a fish stock crisis, while farmed fish rely on wild fish for food through fish meal and oil. Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) principles are in place for Australian Fisheries agencies and industry groups to guide and support sustainability.
“At the moment, we do not advise people to restrict their fish intake due to sustainability issues,” says Andrea Mortenson, executive director of the Omega-3 Centre. The Dietary Guidelines for Australian adults is currently under review, and CHOICE expects the outcomes will help consumers make healthy and sustainable choices.