We all know that we should be taking fish oil. As long as the label says the words “Omega-3 Fatty Acids,” on the cover you should be good to go. Right?
Wrong! If you were going to pick out a shirt to wear out you wouldn’t just grab any old mustard yellow top off the rack. You’d pick something a little more you … with a little more style. Your supplements are the same.
The truth of the matter is, everything you see on labels isn’t exactly as they appear. In fact, one study found that “only three of 32 fish oil supplements contained quantities of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that were equal or higher than labeled content.” EPA and DHA are the fatty acids that the fish oil marketing world banks on.
So what is EPA (besides the Environmental Protection Agency) and DHA, and how do you choose the right fish oil supplement for you? Let’s take a look at what makes each fish oil different.
The Heart of Fish Oil
Let’s be frank, nobody takes fish oil because it tastes good. It’s not the smell either. Perhaps the sole (see what we did there?) reason fish oil is such a wonderful supplement is because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
In a nutshell, omega-3 fatty acids are great for:
- Reducing LDL cholesterol
- Improving heart health
- Boosting brain function
- Regulating blood pressure
- Warding off blood clots
- Balancing the nervous system
- Anti-inflammatory needs
Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Our bodies cannot synthesize polyunsaturated acids on their own, so they rely on us to consume the nutrients through food. The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets include:
- Fish (salmon, mackerel, herring)
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, Brazilian nuts)
- Seeds (hemp, sunflower, flax)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Egg yolks
In the “standard American diet”, we consume a lot of animal fat. Therefore, we get a ton of omega-6 fatty acids. Actually, too much. Omega-3 and omega-6 should be balanced in the system. However, the standard American diet consumes an average 10:1 and 20:1.2 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. That is a stark difference from our ancestors who were estimated to have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1 and 4:1.2. Suffice to say, we are not getting enough omega-3s in our diet.
The Three in Omega-3
The three key parts of omega-3 fatty acids are also what sets fish oils apart from one another. There are three types of Omega-3s:
Short for alpha-linolenic acid, ALA is completely plant-based, so it won’t be found in fish oil. It is a short-chain omega-3, making it an inefficient fatty acid for our bodies to consume. In fact, only 1% of the ALA we consume will actually be used. That’s because ALA goes through a strenuous process where it must convert into a longer chain. These longer chains are the other forms of omega-3 fatty acids and are prevalent in fish oil.
Known in scientific studies as eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA in its original form can be broken down by our bodies. Therefore, this is an efficient nutrient that gets right to work on providing the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids outlined above.
Specifically, EPA is helpful in:
- Reducing inflammations
Like EPA, docosahexaenoic acid delivers all the therapeutic benefits of omega-3 fatty acids as quickly to the body as possible. DHA is a longer chain so it can get into more areas of the system than EPA. If need be, EPA can be converted into DHA. However, if the body consumes too much DHA, it can convert back to EPA in order to keep things balanced.
DHA is ideal for those looking to get supplements for brain function. Taking a fish oil containing more DHA than EPA may help with:
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
Why is DHA so Important?
If you are looking for a brain boost, make sure the label says there is more DHA than EPA in the fish oil supplement. DHA is pivotal for the brain to function optimally. Introducing this omega-3 fatty acid into the system improves the flexibility of the neurons the acids come in contact with. When this happens, the neurons communicate with one another more efficiently, improving overall brain function.
Also, DHA can help reduce brain degeneration. Therefore, it can slow down the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In fact, two studies both found that eating fish in at least one meal a week reduces incidences of Alzheimer’s by a whopping 60%.
What’s Different Between Fish Oil Brands?
So now that you know what to look for fatty acid-wise, what else should you look out for when choosing a fish oil supplement? After all, labels could be misleading, so much so that the FDA is pushing brands takes the word “omega-3” off of labels and instead label which nutrients they are getting.
As we mentioned, if you want to improve your brain function, you want to take a supplement higher in DHA. However, you can do yourself (and mind) a favor by taking a fish oil supplement optimized for DHA.
That is why we recommend CogniDHA Fish Oil. A quality fish oil should be based on:
Oil must be extracted by means of pressure. The way this process is done may change the quality of the oil. For instance using heat can cook the oils, which creates a new chemical makeup of the final product. Others may use chemical solvents like hexane. These synthetic ingredients have chemical reactions with the omegas, making altered molecules that are shells of the real omega-3s.
CogniDHA Fish Oil is extracted through “Supercritical Fluid Extraction”. This process uses carbon dioxide to separate DHA from other parts of the oil. This includes contaminants, pollutants, or heavy metals. Therefore, there are fewer contaminants in the final product.
The minute you cut into anything, it starts to decompose due to oxidation. Naturally, oils oxidize as well. However, using Supercritical Fluid Extraction to make CogniDHA Fish Oil protects the oils from oxidizing so quickly. This keeps the nutrients intact longer. Not to mention, it also curbs the harsh smells that typically come from fish-based products.
Last but certainly not least, the amount of DHA matters when picking out fish oil. CogniDHA Fish Oil is 84% pure omega-3. On top of that, it is a triglyceride concentrate. During the purifying process, many companies will convert the triglyceride into ethyl ester, which takes longer for our bodies to absorb. Whereas, our bodies naturally absorb triglycerides. Therefore, CogniDHA Fish Oil leaves the omegas in their natural form. As an added touch, the fish oil is encapsulated in fish gelatin to maintain nutritional value and integrity.
Don’t Get Caught Up in the Headlines
They’re not lying when they say omega-3s are good for you. However, not every brand is being completely honest with you about the product they are trying to sell you. It’s critical to do your research.
Make sure that these oils are being extracted without the use of solvents so that it doesn’t ruin the benefits. Lastly, figure out what you want those benefits to be. If you care more about pain management and less about the brain, get an EPA-heavy fish oil. If you need a mental boost, turn to DHA. Whatever you do, make sure you follow the instructions to ensure you are getting the most out of your fish oil supplement.
What do you look for in a fish oil? Let us know in the comments section below!