It’s one of the healthy buzzwords. You know omega-3 fatty acids are important, so much so that people take supplements to get enough. But then there’s all this talk about which supplements to take, and which fatty acids are best.
There are two crucial types of omega-3 fatty acids, although opinions are in no short supply on the internet about other types as well. There are also omega-7 fatty acids, but for the purposes of figuring what the best of the best omega-3 type is we’re going to stick to the essentials: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
For obvious reason, these are referred to by their abbreviations. The important thing to understand is that these oils are crucial from day one—right off the bat, babies in gestation need access to these fatty oils for brain development and immunity, as well as heart health.
As adults, fatty acids continue to be important. These acids help with cholesterol levels and heart disease, and protect against inflammatory diseases like pancreatitis. Studies show that DHA and EPA are even better when consumed together.
So where do I get omega-3 fatty acids?
The catch is, our bodies don’t produce these naturally. And even though fatty acids are found in certain fish and in krill (hence the names), our bodies don’t always effectively absorb them. Fish and krill oil supplements are therefore all the more popular to up levels of these vital nutrients.
Flaxseeds and nuts, particularly walnuts, also deliver omega-3 fatty acids. However, our bodies are not as effective at absorbing the oil from nuts.
Although there are some great dinner ideas you could whip up with these omega-3-carrying ingredients, we would have to eat way too much to get the level of fatty acids we really need. And with some people getting nervous about all these reports of mercury and other metals in harvested fish, taking a look a supplements for omega-3 becomes a no brainer.
Fish oil vs. krill oil
Here’s where debate begins. It’s clear that supplements are necessary, but in recent news a New Zealand study showed that there are plenty of omega-3 supplements that don’t even have what they claim to have in their product. If you’re looking at supplements, be sure to flip the bottle over and look at what the bottle claims. Then put it right back on the shelf, get on the internet and check it out. Don’t waste your money on a shoddy product.
There are far more studies on fish oil than there are on krill oil, and therefore there are a lot more good reports and bad reviews about fish oil. Bear in mind that krill oil has not been “put to the test” as extensively. Here’s what they’ve found about fish oil:
• Studies that talk about fish oil discuss the metals in harvested fish; krill has much lower levels of these substances.
• Fish oil has been shown to have higher levels of DHA and EPA fatty acids (30%, compared to 14% in krill oil).
• Taking a fish oil supplement has been shown to cause occasional fishy burps.
• Fish oil is a lot more common, and so there are more options on the market.
• Fish oil can be tested for freshness by splitting open a capsule and seeing if it smells “rotten.”
Krill oil has come a little further into the lime-light as the tug and war of fish oil continues to divide the health community. Here’s what they say:
• Krill is harder to fish, and so has less saturation in the market. It is much more expensive as a consequence.
• Krill oil might have lower levels of DHA and EPA fatty acids, but is more absorbable. The pills are also much smaller.
• The most common side effect of taking krill supplements is flatulence.
• Because there are less studies on krill oil, those arguing that it’s better or worse in terms of overall health benefits have limited and sometimes inconsistent information.
• Krill oil comes with antioxidants that help protect it in its capsule. This also means the split-test to smell for “rotten” oil doesn’t work with krill.
Both omega-3 supplements have their pros and cons, but maybe a single point stands out to you as the deciding factor. If what really got you thinking were the side effects (gas and more gas), just pick your “stank” and stay healthy.
Off to the pharmacy.
Once you’ve identified the omega-3 that makes sense for you, hit the pharmacy all the wiser. There are several more expensive options of each krill and fish oil that are also more reputable. Just make sure the product has what it says it has.
Even if you get the fanciest supplement, some doctors say it still isn’t enough. If you have heart or cholesterol issues (which fatty acids help to mitigate), your doctor might even write you a prescription for a supplement with much higher omega-3 levels.
Once you’ve splurged and you have your supplement in-hand, be sure to store it properly. Omega-3 supplements must be stored in cool places without direct sunlight. You can even make home for them in the fridge.