How to Take Omega-3 Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements are a simple way to increase our levels of vital vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, including the all-important omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). We need these to ensure normal growth during fetal development and infancy, and as adults for our neurological and cardiovascular health. It is always best if we can meet our needs through our regular diet, but omega-3 dietary supplements are important for people whose diets may be deficient, or who have a medical condition requiring them.
Dietary supplements are much safer to take than prescription medicines, even if they look the same. Still, we naturally have questions about the best ways to take them.
Are There Fixed Dosages for Omega-3 Dietary Supplements?
Knowing the correct dosage is vital when taking medicines, but for dietary supplements, the rules are far more relaxed. In the case of omega-3 dietary supplements, there are no fixed recommendations for our daily intake. However, recognized authorities do provide guidelines. For example:
- The World Health Organization recommends eating 1-2 servings per week of fish, since fish – in particular oily fish – are one of the best sources of omega-3s. This is roughly equivalent to 200 to 500 mg/day of EPA + DHA. So if your diet is very low in fish, use this as a guide to how much of your supplement to take.
- The American Heart Association likewise recommends people with no history of coronary heart disease or myocardial infarction consume oily fish twice a week.
- The European Food Safety Authority has approved a claim that “EPA and DHA contributes to the normal function of the heart” for products that contain at least 250 mg of EPA + DHA.
- The US Food and Drug Administration advises that adults can safely consume up to 3 g/day of EPA + DHA, with no more than 2 g coming from supplements
When to Take Omega-3 Supplements?
Another common question about dietary supplements is when to take them. When our doctor prescribes medicines, we’re used to instructions like, “Take three times a day, after meals”, or “Take before bed”. But for dietary supplements, including omega-3s, there are no strict rules.
Some people prefer to take their omega-3 dietary supplement after meals, as one would with many medicines, but this is really not a requirement. It’s perfectly safe to take your supplement at any time of day, whether your stomach is full or empty.
Are There Different Types of Omega-3 Supplement?
There are three different types of supplement, depending on the source of the oil, so be sure to check the label.
Some omega-3 supplements are made from a few species of algae whose oil is moderately rich in EPA and DHA . These supplements are popular with vegans because they contain no animal products, while others prefer them believing they are safer. It’s true that the best sources of EPA and DHA – oily fish and seals – may accumulate toxins from living in polluted waters, but reputable manufacturers of fish and seal oil supplements always refine the oil to ensure levels of any toxins are acceptably low.
Supplements made from oily fish, like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel, are one of the richest sources of EPA and DHA. They have always dominated the market because the fishing industry is huge and global, so oil is readily available. And the rise of salmon farming has strengthened their position further.
The other richest source of EPA and DHA is seal oil, which also has two advantages over fish oil. It has significantly higher levels of another fatty acid, docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), which is similar in structure to EPA and is also found in human breast milk. And because seal oil has the triglyceride structure of a mammal and not a fish, it is more easily absorbed and assimilated by the human body.
What Are the Best Omega-3 Brands?
Even in a country like Canada with strict regulations governing all consumables, there is always a chance that an unscrupulous manufacturer will make a sub-standard omega-3 supplement to maximize profits. For example, they could dilute it with cheap vegetable oil, or cut corners during filtration. We’ve never heard of it happening with seal oil supplements, but it’s possible!
For this reason, consumers often concern themselves less with trying to spot the best product and more with picking a brand they can trust.
This shortlist is surely not complete, but here are three brands of omega-3 supplements that enjoy strong public trust.
- Carino: Based in South Dildo, Newfoundland, Carino has purchased catches directly from commercial sealers for over 50 years, and today is the industry leader in seal products. In addition to marketing its own omega-3 supplements, Carino also supplies most other producers with raw oil.
- Waspu: Waspu is a brand owned by the Qalipu First Nation, on the island of Newfoundland. Its omega-3 supplements use the oil of seals harvested by indigenous peoples from Newfoundland and Labrador, and all profits are used to support Qalipu communities and culture.
- DPA Gold: DPA Gold is produced by Ottawa-based DPA Industries. Since its founding in 1996, DPA claims to have produced over 6 billion soft gel capsules and shipped them to every continent except Antarctica.
How to Buy Omega-3 Supplements
Dietary supplements made from fish oil are readily available from pharmacies the world over. Algae oils are popular in some countries, but unheard of in many. And seal oil supplements are well known only in countries with a strong tradition of using marine mammal products.
Fortunately for Canadians, all three are available, so check out the shelves of your local Shoppers Drug Mart, Uniprix, Brunet Familiprix, or Jean-Coutu.
But if you’re a hardcore online shopper, or just don’t live anywhere near a pharmacy, finding what you want has never been easier. All big pharmacies now have their own online stores, as do the individual makers of supplements. Or if comparison shopping is your thing, find all the top brands under one virtual roof at Canadian Seal Products.