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Most fish oil is garbage. Here’s what to do about it

Article at a Glance
  • Fish oil and omega-3 supplements are taken by millions of Americans, but not all these products are created equal.
  • Studies show that many fish oil supplements contain impurities and that 70% don’t accurately state the amount of EPA and DHA in each pill.
  • Catch-to-capsule time averages 2-3 years for many fish oil products.
  • To find a quality fish oil brand, look for oils that are either EuroFins- or IFOS-compliant and that come in triglyceride form.
  • Nordic Naturals ProOmega-D received our highest rating thanks in part to its use in clinical settings to treat patients with brain injuries, as well as its EPA/DHA content, purity, and certificate of analysis for each batch produced.

Scientifically reviewed by Dr. Aaron Gardner

Best Fish Oil Supplements

The supplement world can be a tricky place to navigate. You want to do the right thing for your health, but who can you trust?

The fact is that many supplements don’t contain the ingredients they say they do, and nowhere is the playing field more murky than with fish oil.

Fish oil is one of those “run of the mill” supplements that even doctors recommend for their patients. Millions of Americans take it, and in some cases, this improves their health, however, not all fish oil is created equal. In fact, some large brands sell jars of fish oil that would be labeled as harmful if the true ingredients were known to consumers.

Fish oil impurities

Consider these statistics:

Over 70% of fish oil supplements do not contain the levels of EPA or DHA stated on the label.1

This study found that a quarter of omega-3 fish oil supplements tested had high levels of oxidized (harmful) lipids.2

High levels of oxidized lipids, an indication of lipid decomposition, were found in over 80% of more than 35 fish oil supplements from New Zealand, with only 8% meeting international standards.3

50% of Canadian fish oil contains oxidized lipids.4

This study found that omega-3 fish oil products from three of the largest fish oil brands in the US were full of oxidized lipids, toxins and saturated fats. Yes, saturated fats in fish oil!

Suffice to say, oxidized lipids are not a good thing. Rather than protecting heart health, as fish oil supplements are supposed to do, they can do damage:

oxidized lipids have demonstrated negative effects on atherogenic lipids and other biomarkers of cardiovascular disease and may be predictive of clinical events in patients with cardiovascular risk or disease.

Bottom line: the fish oil industry has a big problem. There are serious impurities in many of the top selling brands on the market.

If you’re still set on supplementing with fish oil, the rest of this post will be devoted to strategies you and your family can use to ensure that your fish oil supplement contains omega-3 fatty acids rather than oxidized and rancid fats. If you’re interested in how much, and what type of fats your body is best suited to consuming, check out our custom nutrition plan product.

The fish oil industry insider interview

What better way to understand the ins and outs of the fish oil world than to interview an insider. To get the inside scoop on what to look for in a fish oil supplement, I interviewed a friend who works at a high end supplement manufacturer. My intention here is to give you the real deal as to how “the sausage is made,” and then some actionable tips for finding a good brand.

What fish oil trends should we look out for in 2019?

As companies try to create new “stories,” and carve out their piece of the market pie, I think we could see some marketing pushes for different technologies focused on bioavailability of omega-3s. Something that has made an impact in the medical world over the last year, I’ll reserve my comments on its clinical relevance, are Omega 3s in the monoglyceride form. While there has been no published data on the raw material, the idea is that these “predigested” fats are better absorbed than the more common ethyl ester, thus similar benefits can be expected with less oil. We could also see some of self-emulsifying technologies you would generally see utilized in lipophilic pharmaceuticals applied to your fish oil products. In my opinion, until we see these technologies backed up by good studies, consumers would be best served being directed towards a high quality oil in the re-esterified triglyceride form (like we list below).

What is most fish oil made of?

A large majority of fish oil used to create marine-derived omega-3s come from small, fatty fishes like: sardines, mackerel and anchovies. Other sources include: tuna, cod, salmon, herring among a few others.

How long has the fish and the oil sat before being used?

This can vary greatly from brand to brand. While actual “catch to capsule” timeframes are difficult to track down, it is speculated that the industry average is 2-3 years. That would mean, a large majority of the fish oil products sitting on the retail shelves contain the oil from fish were harvested in 2014-15.

What level of impurity is in most fish oil?

That is difficult to say … being that the fish oil industry has now been going strong for several decades, many of the quality control issues that once existed such as heavy metal contamination, toxins (pesticides) and oxidation are rare today. There are several organizations, like The Global Organization for EPA and DHA (GOED) and The Council of Responsible Nutrition (CRN), that have developed standards for fish oil products that set specific limits for heavy metals, a wide variety of pollutants and oxidation limits. With that being said, there have absolutely been instances of unacceptable levels of these contaminates being found in products in the retail setting. 

Note: When I clicked through to the GOED website, most of the links to members were broken, and General Mills was listed as a member, so caveat emptor.

Has most fish oil been exposed to heat?

This is probably one of the most misunderstood steps in the manufacturing process. The idea that heat used in the distillation process oxidizes the oil is completely unfounded. The “crude” fish oil goes through a careful multistep molecular distillation and filtration process where the crude oil is refined down to an omega-3 concentrate free of heavy metals and contaminants. During the molecular distillation the oil is exposed to low heat in a vacuum setting, no oxygen is present during this step that could potentially lead to oxidization of the oil. This necessary step removes many of the undesirable free fatty acids and contaminates present and concentrates the oil down to the desired EPA and DHA content. 

What about Krill oil?

Krill oil delivers EPA and DHA in the phospholipid form. Based on this, companies have made and continue to make the “superior bioavailability” claim while having no long term data to back up those claims. The studies leveraged by these companies are generally poorly designed, utilize different dosages, do not specify forms, wrong outcome measures, single dose, etc. The only study, that I know of, that compared equal dosages of EPA/DHA as Krill oil and Fish Oil (TG form) found nearly identical increases in Red Blood Cell concentrations over a (28) day period. While the studied dose (1.3 g) can easily be obtained in (2) fish oil capsules, it would take more than (18) OmegaRed krill oil capsules to reach the dose. As it currently stands, krill oil is simply not an economical way to get your EPA/DHA.

What to look for in a good fish oil product

This is a conversation I have almost daily with clinicians looking for a fish oil to recommend to their patients.

In my opinion it comes down to four (4) important aspects:


Look for oils that are either EuroFins- or IFOS-compliant. These European labs operate under standards much higher than even the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), testing for a number of additional contaminants ensuring your fish oil is of the highest quality. The easiest way to verify the purity of your fish oil is to ask the manufacturer for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for your specific batch. Any legitimate manufacturer should be able to provide a batch-specific COA. This will tell you the exact content of not only EPA and DHA (the good stuff) as well as levels of oxidation (Peroxide Value), heavy metals, and any potential bad bugs (E.coli, staph, salmonella, yeast, and mold).


The easiest way (not always the most pleasant) to determine the freshness of your oil is a simple “bite test.” A high-quality, fresh oil will be relatively free of any fishy tastes or smells. The oil should also be relatively translucent, free of any cloudiness or “floaters.”


There are currently four (4) primary forms of omega-3s available in supplemental delivery. This is a source of a lot of confusion for consumers looking for the most bioavailable omega-3 oil. Omega-3s occur naturally in the triglyceride form so it would make sense to supplement in this form as well and the nutritional sciences suggest just that. There is a cheaper, faster manufacturing process that yields what is called an ethyl ester (EE). This semi-synthetic form of omega-3s contains an ethanol backbone that have shown difficulties in both absorption and bioavailability (how well it is incorporated into cell membranes). A large majority of fish oil is in the EE form. Products that contain the triglyceride form will list this somewhere on the bottle while an ethyl ester might be listed as something along the lines of “marine oil concentrate.” Other forms include phospholipids (sub-therapeutically dosed capsules) and monoglycerides (expensive, lack human clinical data). These last (2) forms are driven more heavily by marketing then they are actual science, further contributing to the confusion.


Lastly, check to see the actual content of EPA and DHA, the therapeutic components of omega-3 fatty acids. Many companies will attempt to deceive consumers by boosting amount of omega-3s but when you look at the supplement facts box you find a fairly low content of EPA and DHA. Ideally, a product should contain close to a gram of a balanced mix of EPA and DHA. Therapeutic ranges fall anywhere between 1 and 6 grams per day depending on clinical conditions. For compliance reasons, the fewer capsules someone has to take the more likely they are to stay complaint and reap the well documented benefits of fish oil supplementation.

Finding the best omega 3 supplement: Fish oil reviews

Amber, our resident food and supplement tester of vegan egg fame, took the reins for these tests.

OK, so our interview gave us some criteria to use in separating the fish oil wheat from the fish oil chaff. We know you’re busy, so we went ahead and evaluated some of the top brands on Amazon and gave our analysis in the notes that follow.

Fish oil brand comparison

BrandGene Food ratingIFOS statusEPA/DHAFormFreshnessQuantity
Nordic Naturals ProOmega-DA+No IFOS rating; not on labdoor650 mg EPA, 450 mg DHA, 180 mg other Omega-3sTriglycerideFresh, bright flavor180 softgels
Nordic Naturals Ultimate OmegaANo IFOS rating; similar Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega product received 73.9/100 Labdoor score650 mg EPA, 450 mg DHA, 180 mg other Omega-3sTriglycerideClear lemon flavor, no distinct smell180 softgels
Nordic Naturals Omega CurcuminA-No IFOS rating; not on Labdoor490 mg EPA, 350 mg DHA, 160 mg other Omega-3sTriglycerideBright and lemony flavor, can see the curcumin when opening a capsule, no smell60 softgels
Carlson the Very Finest Fish OilB+5/5 star IFOS rating; 60.9/100 Labdoor score180 mg EPA, 120 mg DHATriglycerideCapsule coating has a sugary taste, bite test led to no fishy taste or smell, mostly lemon, clear liquid240 softgels
Orthomega 820 CapsulesB+No IFOS rating; not on Labdoor430 mg EPA, 390 mg DHATriglycerideNot cloudy, OK smell, relatively pleasant taste that's more lemon than fish60 softgels
Dr. Tobias Triple-Strength Omega 3 Fish OilBNo IFOS rating; 71.9/100 Labdoor score400 mg EPA, 300 mg DHANot indicatedNot cloudy, but definitely tastes like fish using the bite test, and a little bit fish smell180 softgels
Nordic Naturals Omega-3BNo IFOS rating; not on Labdoor745 mg EPA, 500 mg DHATriglycerideClear, easy taste, somewhat like olive oil with lemon and rosemary accents, no smell8 fl oz. (48 teaspoons)
NOW Ultra Omega-3B-No IFOS rating; 72.7/100 Labdoor score500 mg EPA, 250 mg DHAEE (listed as fish oil concentrate)Slightly cloudy, mostly tasted fresh but might have been masked by the addition of Vitamin E180 softgels
Kirkland Signature Fish OilC-No IFOS rating; 59.3/100 Labdoor score250 mg total (does not list EPA and DHA separately)Not indicatedA bit of a fishy taste here, but clear liquid400 softgels
Nature Made Burp-less Fish OilDNo IFOS rating; 61.1/100 Labdoor score250 mg total (does not list EPA and DHA separately)EE (listed as fish oil concentrate)Not cloudy, but some fishy taste and smell150 softgels

Nordic Naturals ProOmega-D

This product came on our radar after doing research on the cognitive benefits of fish oil, specifically in those who have suffered from traumatic brain injury. The EPA/DHA

content, as well as overall Omega 3 amounts, mirror the Ultimate Omega product, which we also love, however, the ProOmega-D has been used in clinical settings to treat patients with brain injury. ProOmega-D is considered the “professional version” of Ultimate Omega. You can read the case study of the patient who used ProOmega-D to aid recovery after a serious head injury here. As with all Nordic Naturals products, ProOmega verifies potency, freshness, and purity with a certificate of analysis for each batch and bottle of its fish oil products.

Gene Food Rating: A+

Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega

The Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega fish oil product has one of the highest amounts of EPA/DHA per serving of all products reviewed, which is a big plus. But one of the best things Nordic Naturals has going for it — and why it ranks so high in a few spots on this list — are its Certificates of Analysis being made so easily available. Nordic Naturals offers Certificates of Analysis for all its omega-3 products, verifying potency, purity, freshness, non-GMO, sustainability, and no radionuclide activity. We have an example below of how to find your lot number on a Nordic Naturals bottle (right by the expiration date), as well as what a typical Certificate of Analysis looks like.

Nordic Naturals lot number

Once you’ve got your lot number, head to Nordic Naturals’ website to enter and obtain your Certificate of Analysis for that batch. You should expect your lot number to contain its bottling date/expiration date on a Certificate of Analysis and amounts of environmental toxins, heavy metals, and oxidation that are lower than standard. This example is from another Nordic Naturals product, which we review directly after this one.

Nordic Naturals Certificate of Analysis

Gene Food rating: A

As open about its purity and potency as Nordic Naturals seems to be, we would love for them to be IFOS-certified. While none of the Nordic Naturals fish oil products we reviewed are on Labdoor, the following omega-3 products from the company received excellent or good scores there: Nordic Naturals Algae Omega (vegan, 97.9/100 Labdoor score), Nordic Naturals Prenatal DHA (74.5), and Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D-3 (73.8).

Nordic Naturals Omega Curcumin

Omega Curcumin is a fish oil blend that adds curcumin, N-acetyl-cysteine, and glutathione to the usual Nordic Naturals formula. If you’re looking for an added anti-inflammatory benefit from your omega-3 supplement, this is a good choice to consider. Both glutathione and curcumin are difficult to absorb due to low bioavailability, which is why you often see them added to liposomal preparations. The problem with these liposomal products is they encase the nutrients in what are often unhealthy fats that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. By encasing glutathione and curcumin in omega-3 fats, bioavailability is increased without the need to use cheaper phospholipids that can raise TMAO and other inflammatory markers.

Gene Food rating: A-

The doses of all additional ingredients are well balanced. The 400 mg of curcumin is a good therapeutic dose, while the 150 mg of glutathione and 200 mg of NAC are good starter doses for most people. Our particular lot number was bottled in October 2017 with an October 2019 expiration date, with amounts of environmental toxins, heavy metals, and oxidation that were lower than standard. We would, however, love for Nordic Naturals products to be IFOS-certified. While this Nordic Naturals fish oil (and the other one mentioned in this post) aren’t on Labdoor, other Nordic Naturals fish oils received decent scores there.

Carlson the “Very Finest” Fish Oil

The Carlson brand of fish oil instructs its users to take two soft gels that total 700 mg when taken together at mealtime. Carlson boasts a special concentrate of Norwegian fish body oils from deep, cold-water fish (anchovy, sardine, and mackerel), with purity guaranteed by an independent FDA-registered lab.

Gene Food rating: B+

We really like the 5-star IFOS rating, plus the clearly labeled triglyceride form (not many brands disclose the form of their fish oil on nutrition labels). The capsule itself is the only one with an actual taste on the outside — sweet, most likely from the glycerin — which can be a little off-putting for some, but probably helpful if you’re knocking back five of these a day. We’re only giving this one a slightly lower rating because its Labdoor score is middle-of-the-pack.

Orthomega 820 Capsules

Orthomega has the highest concentration of EPA and DHA per softgel (and is the most expensive at nearly $1 each pill), yet the recommended serving is just one softgel per day. If you went with the Dr. Tobias brand, you’re looking at a similar amount of EPA/DHA per softgel, but double the amount ingested daily if you follow Dr. Tobias’ recommendations. Orthomega also just uses anchovy for its fish oil while all other brands have some combination of fish; it also contains rosemary extract in its antioxidant blend.

Gene Food rating: B+

This one is pretty pricey, but has a good taste and a nice amount of EPA/DHA. Still, we’d like to see an IFOS/Labdoor review.

Dr. Tobias Triple-Strength Omega 3 Fish Oil

Dr. Tobias’ Triple-Strength brand of fish oil is a best-seller, containing herring, anchovy, sardine, salmon, and mackerel (in addition to soy — good to know if you’re allergic or have sensitivities). Suggested serving is two 1,000-mg softgels taken daily with meals. Tested and certified by a third-party lab and purified with molecular distillation, this fish oil contains 800 mg EPA and 600 mg DHA per two-softgel serving.

Gene Food rating: B

We like the idea of triple-strength and the value of a pretty good fish oil concentration of EPA/DHA for your buck. It also ranks a bit higher than other brands on Labdoor.

Nordic Naturals Omega-3

This was the only brand tested that wasn’t a softgel. Instead, you’ll take one cold, refrigerated teaspoon daily (1,560 mg) with food, if you dare. Luckily, it’s easier than expected, and Nordic Naturals delivers a whopping 745 mg EPA and 500 mg DHA per single teaspoon of purified deep sea fish oil from anchovies and sardines. Certificates of Analysis also are available upon request.

Gene Food rating: B

This was our favorite, in terms of taste and ease of use, in addition to the amount of EPA/DHA per serving, was a winner. However, for those concerned about saturated fat, the liquid form of this Nordic Naturals product contains 8% of your daily recommended amount of saturated fat (whereas other fish oil brands contain between 1%-3%, typically).

NOW Ultra Omega 3 Fish Oil

The nice thing about NOW Ultra Omega 3 is you only need to take one softgel per day (but can take two). It also has one of the higher amounts of EPA in this list, but on the low end of DHA. This brand also uses the lower-quality form of fish oil as concentrate rather than triglyceride. Its biggest benefit is the highest Labdoor score of all the fish oil brands we included in our taste test.

Gene Food rating: B-

We like that NOW Foods is a family owned company and were impressed by the Labdoor score, but like many other brands here, hoped for an IFOS-compliant product. We also prefer triglyceride form of fish oil over the cheaper EE, any day of the week.

Kirkland Signature Fish Oil

Kirkland Signature is a big brand you’ll find at Costco, and if you’re a regular fish oil customer, you may lean toward this brand based on quantity vs. cost — just 6 cents a day for this supplement. Instructions are to take 1 softgel (containing mackerel, anchovy, menhaden, herring, and sardine) two times daily, in which you’ll get about 500 mg of EPA/DHA total per day. The problem is, Kirkland does not offer a distinction of EPA or DHA amounts on its nutrition label.

Gene Food rating: C-

The low price tag on this one is a convincing argument, but it has the lowest Labdoor score of all brands tested and no IFOS rating, in addition to lower levels of EPA/DHA than some competitors.

Nature Made Burp-less Fish Oil

Nature Made is one of the more popular commercial brands of supplements. Their Burp-less Fish Oil contains anchovy and sardine, with a suggested serving size of two softgels daily with meals. The oil’s country of origin is Peru, but it is encapsulated and quality tested in the U.S. Like Kirkland, Nature Made does not offer a distinction between EPA and DHA levels in its product.

Gene Food rating: D

We’re not a huge fan of the taste, nor the form (EE) of this fish oil. It’s on the lower end of Labdoor scores, as well, and has no IFOS rating, plus low EPA/DHA concentration.

Key takeaways on the best fish oil

As you could have guessed by combing through the impurity stats we cited at the outset, there is a wide disparity in the quality of fish oil products on the market today. Most are garbage. If you’re planning on including fish oil in your supplement regimen, it is crucially important to do your homework so you know exactly what you’re getting. Many popular brands do more harm than good. Hopefully this review and “taste test” will help you find a good quality omega-3 supplement.

John O'Connor

John O'Connor is the founder of Gene Food and an Integrative Health Coach, trained at Duke IM. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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Leave Comment

  1. Ronnie says:

    Labdoor’s analysis is rigorous and they rank WHC’s UnoCardio 1000 #1 for quality. Have done for four years running.

  2. Samira says:

    Great article! I was looking for some scientific info before I purchase this supplement and this gave me everything I needed. Thank you!

  3. Peter Wymark says:

    For many years I was taking either a cod liver oil or a halibut liver oil capsule daily. This was in the hope it would help with a skin complaint allergy. During that time I was trying to find a way to increase my energy levels, trying to pinpoint a food or drink that could be causing it. Six months ago I had a blood pressure test which indicated that it was low. I did some research on the web to find out what caused low bld pressure. The answer to my surprise: fish oil.
    Since cutting out my fish oil supplement I no longer feel lethargic.
    Interesting, don’t you agree?

  4. Ryan says:

    According to consumerlab, a 3rd party independent lab testing company, Kirkland Signature fish oil is one of their top picks. Even though it is less concentrated than others it was still the lowest cost when based on cost per 100mg EPA+DHA. This is also an advantage not a disadvantage since it leaves room for omega 3s other than EPA/DHA that are likely to have a beneficial effect. Here is the test result per capsule:

    154mg EPA
    110mg DHA
    21mg DPA
    102mg Omega 7 (75% palmitoleic acid)
    They also passed the test for purity and contaminants.

    And the assumed form is triglyceride based on what the test found since they did not label this, so better absorbed than the ethyl ester form.

    So, are they less concentrated? Yes. So what, I just take 10 a day. Still cheaper than any other, still has everything they need plus more (other beneficial compounds) and in the better form. Winning!

  5. Ker-Bear says:

    Thank you for your article. Is there a fish oil you would recommend with a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio EPA to DHA? I have been reading that this ratio may be best for ADD/ADHD. Thank you.

  6. Jason says:

    Your chart is inconsistent and misleading. If you are going by serving, you listed Nordic Naturals – ProOmega D as having 650 mg EPA and 450 mg DHA for 2 softgels, but you listed Dr Tobias Omega 3 Fish Oil Triple Strength as having 400 mg EPA and 300 mg DHA but that’s for 1 softgel. One serving (2 softgels) of Dr Tobias is actually 800 mg EPA and 600 mg DHA. That makes Dr Tobias more potent than Nordic Naturals, at half the price.

  7. Eric Anderson says:

    Hi, what about Life Extension brand’s Super Omega-3? It has a 5-star IFOS rating and lists EPA, DHA, and Typical DPA separtely on the label. It’s not even rated in your study? thanks

  8. FERENC KELLER says:

    hi there!! what about Amway’s Omega supplement from Nutrilite they claim that they have a special license to fish for deep sea salmon??! are they any good?

  9. Kristine Bell says:

    I have been taking Nature’s Made One Per Day Burp-less fish oil supplement and wanted to point out that my bottle does have EPA and DHA separated amounts on the back of the bottle. It’s a different bottle than the one you have listed here but the brand does have this option.

    • Hey Alex, we do collect affiliate revenue from sales of fish oil through this post, but no, we do not have a special relationship, nor are we in contact with, any of the brands listed. We don’t receive sponsorship or revenue from any fish oil company.

  10. Rebecca Pinches says:


    I am using the Nordic natural ultimate omega 3 but liquid not caps. I noticed you trialled the liquid Omega 3 Nordic natural it got a lower rating because of saturated fats? Is there much difference between the Ultimate Omega 3 liquid vs caps?

  11. Bigtexun says:

    This is a good article. Thanks for the info. Many years ago I was studying fish oil and EPA/DHA supplements in general, and I ran across a study on effective dosing, and was shocked at the amount of EPA/DHA that was required to be minimally effective. When I looked at the fish oil supplements available, you pretty much had to take a whole bottle to get a minimally effective dose. In reading the study notes, I ran across a statement that suggested that some krill oil supplements were more concentrated. I found a krill oil supplement, and started taking it in a dose I estimated to be above the minimally effective dosage. It took about 6 months, but I started noticing changes in my skin health that I assumed was a result of this regimen. After a couple of years I fell off track, and stopped keeping up with the supplements. It took almost 6 months before I started seeing my skin issues return. I noticed, restarted the supplements and the skin problems cleared up on cue. One easy to demonstrate issue was my scaly elbows, a problem I have had since my late teens (in my late 50’s now).

    So fast forward to today… The artic sourced krill oils I had been using (and mentioned in the study) became unavailable or very expensive. I switched brands, and sources, now the krill is Antartic sources. I started studying the issue again after seeing a new item where the FDA approved a new drug based on fish oils, and the studies for that product had a reported conclusion that fish oil supplements were junk, due to the amount you needed to take to get an effect. I shrugged that off as information I already knew from years before. But I ran across another web page that made the case that fish oils had more DHA/EPA than the krill oil I was taking.
    A big surprise to me because that was /not/ the case when I studied supplement dosing years back. So I started digging around, and found this page, as well as /lots/ of supplement labels (on amazon where I can read them without buying anything) and it seems that while I wasn’t paying attention, the fish oil supplement industry has changed a lot since I started taking Krill oil. This is great news to me because taking a handful of pills every day is expensive. But it seems “fishy” to me that suddenly krill oil went from being more powerful to less powerful in that time. I suspect that fish oil is going through more processing now to concentrate the DHA/EPA, while the Krill oil is still the same it was when I started. There are good krill oils and junk krill oils, but I wonder how much I can trust a label. When my artic oil became unavailable, the first two brands I tried to replace it with did not seem to work, so I suspect they were junk.

    But now that I have read this article, I’m forced to ask myself how I can tell when I can believe a label, and brand-specific recommendations. I’m glad you mentioned Labdoor, as well as the EuroFins and IFOS standards, that gives you a lot more credibility… But there is still a degree of faith required. I’ve seen many many examples of trusted sources of information and product recommendations that turn out to be nothing more than lies. And living in the home town of Whole Foods, I’ve seen dozens of examples of our “most trusted” food store not living up to it’s own hype, but still charging prices that imply otherwise.

    It is frustrating that you can’t trust a label, you can’t trust the information that is here to inform us. I’m hopeful that Labdoor, EuroFins and IFOS exist at all, but they only cover a small fraction of the supplement market. Are there other sources of data you can share? With all of the fake, incomplete, or wrong information out there, how do we know what to trust? How can I do something as simple as deciding I can trust the info on this page? How do I know this isn’t another source of fake information like I find everywhere else? My BS detector isn’t going crazy, but only because you site some legit sounding sources of information. But How can you rank products not on Labdoor and not carrying a standards compliance label? How do you get the information for your “Gene food rating”? Do you have lab data that you are using? This site seems trustworthy, and my own research has led me to some of the same products that other articles cite, but I have to be cognizant of the funding you derive from your Amazon links when I weigh what to trust. But I get it, a web page must make money to fund it’s existence, and there is nothing wrong with that (I started the first ISP in Austin in 1987, and invented the web hosting business, so I know first hand how that money train works).

    So thanks, John, for the good article… Forgive my healthy dose of skepticism, I’m an engineer and I ask lots of questions, no disrespect intended.

    • LR says:

      Who and what brands do you current use for your Omega-3 fish oil or Krill oils or most recommend for label accuracy and potentency

    • Porgy says:

      Menhaden oil is the only fish oil (real fish oil) that is FDA affirmed as GRAS (generally recognized as safe). Therefore, this would technically be the best fish oil provided that it has not been chemically altered and converted to ethyl esters which are not fish oil. It took many years for the FDA to affirmed the GRAS status of this real fish oil and limits its use in foods to 3 grams total EPA+DHA.
      DPA can’t be marketed as a dietary ingredient or as a dietary supplement because it is a component of the FDA approved drug Lovaza and Epanova. Remember the race to market clause in the FDCA act.

  12. Dom says:

    Who knew so many people were crazy for fish oil. How about just eating fish 3 times week and adding Chia seed & flaxseed daily.

  13. MJ says:

    Informative article. Have you heard of Pharmanex Marine Omega & Opti Omega? Pharmanex claims their supplements go through very stringent tests and their fish oils are free from mercury, lead and other pollutants.

  14. Nat Nurse says:

    Hi, I am 39 diagnosis of sarcoidosis I am in need of Anti-inflammatory fish oil. I read about curcumin mixed with fish oil, do you have any recommendations I can discussing with my doctor? Thank you

  15. TG says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for this article. After reading this article, I have dug deeper into this fish oil business. What do you think about the authenticity of sites like etc?


  16. K Hollis says:

    Good article on the triglyceride form of Omega 3 but no mention at all on Krill which contains phospholipid-bound Omega 3s considered by some recent research to be superior (for a couple reasons including bioavailability) to the triglyceride form.

  17. Val Pellicciotti says:

    Did you do any testing on Res-Q 1250. EPA 780 mg DHA 600 mg
    Ingredients: Highly refined and concentrated omega-3 marine oil
    (derived from or more anchovy, sardine,mackerel) capsule (gelatin,
    glycerin and purified water) Product of Norway.

  18. Mickey Gelerstein says:

    I’m wondering why at least the 1st 12 reviewed as best Fish Oil products in Labdoor are not even mentioned here in your interesting article.

  19. Lewis says:

    Is our only concern Omega-3 ? (Including EPA and DHA). I’ve seen other products that contain Omega 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11 that get included in their total of 1000 mg of Whole Omega Fatty Acids.

  20. jemila says:

    Thank you John !

    This article is a good overview of the many factors involved, and helps educate/ eliminate confusion in evaluating a good fish oil to buy, I appreciate this SO MUCH.

    I hope you can soon update it with many more brands, including some mid- to lower-range ones (I know this takes time & resources). I appreciate that you did a couple of low-end ones, and now I know they are EE, not triglyceride, and what that means. (I never would have known that “fish oil concentrate” is ethyl ester, not triglyceride — thanks ! )

    I too am curious about your take on krill.

    Also, can you clarify, is your website paid/sponsored by any brands, or independent? This is important for us to know. Or do they all pay an equal fee to be reviewed? If you are independent/ not paid, you should put that prominently at the top of your article (either way!), as many ‘review’ websites are paid by certain brands.

    Last question, my fish oil softgels have gone past their exp date, but they taste/smell OK/not rancid. Is that a safe test?


  21. linsey chen says:

    what about the Brand call Heart Health, it has fish body oils 3000mg, EPA 900mg, DHA 600mg, other omega 3 fatty acids 300mg, can you study on it?

    • Mickey Gelerstein says:

      Check the following link and you will see that some products of very famous brands have a very low “label accuracy” and also “projected efficacy”. Which means anything printed in a label can be just that, fake information until it is independently tested. The information in the link is very interesting at least to read it through… This LABDOOR is probably not the Bible, but at least there is a systematic way for testing.

  22. jim says:

    I use Nature’s Bounty 1400 mg, 980 mg omega-3, broken down as 647mg EPA, 253mg DHA, and an unknown amount of other omega-3 fatty acids. My numbers seem better than yours….Is that because this brand has irregularities? Just asking, I do not know.

  23. bum says:

    How good is ‘Nature’s Made Fish Oil 1200 mg’? Contains 360 mg of EPA. I bought some for my dog. Please, if anyone knows, give a review.

  24. Sofia Chandler says:

    The carlson brand says a serving is 2 capsules, which is 700 mg. That’s pretty standard for strength. Don’t know where the info that one capsule is 1000mg is coming from.

  25. gagandeep says:

    Hello John O’connor… please can you tell the all omega 3 brands you suggested…these softgels will not melt on polystyrene? Do you protect us with any guaranty? beacuse i want to buy omega 3 especially for memory and with high content of EPA/DHA…. please can you suggest me how much of EPA/DHA i have to take per day for memory and which brand is best and harmless to ky body and cognitive functions? thanks

  26. jennifer says:

    hi! my cat has arthritis and her vet prescribed 270mg EPA a day, she said krill is best and human grade is fine if theres no other supplements like vitamin d and other stuff that could harm her since dosing is different for that stiff for them, what one can i give her that doesn’t have added lemon or vitamins? please help i would greatly appreciate it

  27. Edtele says:

    John O’Connor, is there a brand that is consensus, unanimity as to quality and reliability in these analyzed questions?

  28. Mel Hoelscher says:

    Great write-up, I am regular visitor of one’s web site, maintain up the excellent operate, and It’s going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time.

  29. Arnstein Bjone says:

    I live in Norway. 45% of us take cod liver oil every day. We also eat a lot of fat fish, but we can be better at both. Very few of us have a biondex above 8%, but many have 4-6%.

    I have tested my omega-6:omega-3-ratio twice the past 12 months. Got it down from 3.2:1 to 2.0:1 (and the bioindex went up 9.2 to 11.88%) 🙂

    I know about the blood coagulation issue for ratio below 1:1/0.5:1, but I don’t think I will get the ratio so low. I will test yearly, and be aware of nosebleeds..

    I eat all kind of foods, but have reduced the intake of omega-6 about 95% the past year (basically vegetable oils). Make almost everything from scratch, using mostly unprocessed fresh/frozen food.

    I have in the same period been eating ca 5-10(!) gram EPA/DHA every day, usually 65 gram mackerel (in tomato sauce) and 25 ml cod liver oil, plus some other fat seafood. A capsule or two are far from enough if you want your O6:O3-ratio below 4:1, which really protect you from arthritis, alergies, Altzheimer, depression and som cancers. The oil i drink is Møllers Tran (“Moellers Tran”). It is rinsed. Only traceable amounts of pollutants. (<2.5 % of allowed EU-amounts)
    I have always been eating all kind of seafoods, and I still do, but 80-90% of my meals now are meat. Very little vegetables. A lot of butter and animal fat, and hardly any other fats.

    I also take 12 gram of hydrolyzed collagen and 20 grams of inulin every day, a "full" multivitamin, 5.000 IU vitamin D3, 2×500 mg vitamin C an 2×100 mg Q10. 0.5-1 liter “chai” (black and green tea + a lot of spices (homemade consentrate)), lots of full cream, some butter, and stevia with vanilla )
    I also make concentrated bone broth from 50 kg catle bones every year (simmered for 2-3 days, and then reduced 80%).

  30. Peter Csigo says:

    Your website doesn’t help anybody I’ve read different website endorsing different fish oil brands where they documented analysis etc etc this is just another BS website giving out misinformation.

    • jemila says:

      This article is a very good overview of the many factors involved to educate/ eliminate confusion in evaluating a good fish oil to buy, I appreciate that SO MUCH.

      Peter C, if you are not BS-ing, yourself, tell us exactly what is “misinformation” as you claim.

      You are confusing your opinion with reality, and confusing endorser/paid websites with (I believe) an independent one. kinda sloppy, waste of space. This article helps a lot of people and is NOT BS, though it doesn’t list nearly as many brands as I would like. And as far as I can tell, this website is not endorsing/ being paid by brands as some websites are, though I could be mistaken: he DOES list a lot of Nordic Naturals. But then he evaluates a couple of low-end ones which I found helpful, and tells me what they don’t, that “fish oil concentrate” is ethyl ester, not triglyceride.

      John O’Connor, can you clarify, is your website paid/sponsored or independent? or do they all pay an equal fee to be reviewed?

  31. Tom says:

    Very interesting article. I must admit that I have just recently started taking fish oil, and blindly trusted GNC. The label looks good, but in fact I could not find an expiration date. I will do some homework on this before buying my next bottle.

  32. Carol says:

    Have just bought Wild Fish Oil. Am still confused about what’s better, Krill oil or Fish oil. And although Wild Fish Oil has all sorts of certifications and positive PR by the company founder, I still have not seen the product in comp. studies. Plus on the bottle there is no breakdown of Omega 3s. Know anything about them? Thanks

    • Anthony says:

      I use Wild Fish Oil from Wild Foods because, as they explain, their fish oil is a lot less likely to be rancid. They use US fishers that process their fish right off the boat here in the US, and then into bottling. Plus they told me they keep stock tight, and refrigerate it to ensure it gets to me as fresh as possible. They also source from Menheddan fish only with have higher counts of Omegas. I rarely ever burp from their oils, and have never had them repeat on me, also the fishy smell is almost non-existent.

  33. Alex E says:

    Hi, thanks for your post! Very informative. Quick question- Nordic Naturals Omega-3… I looked on google and found a couple stores near me that sell the pill versions instead of the liquid form that you reviewed. Do you think the pill version will be as effective as the liquid form?

    • Brittany says:

      It won’t be, I take omega 3 for a neurological disease and my doctor specifically told me that the ones in capsules are rancid and to NEVER take them.

  34. Laura says:

    I currently take VQ Verified Quality omega 3 fish oil 180mgEPA 120mg DHA, have you heard of this brand? my doctor has me order it from her. Also how much do I actually take daily, I mean how many of the softgels do I take a day? right now I take one in the AM and one in the evening. Thank you for your feedback

  35. Crystal Adams Murphy says:

    Thanks a million for your contribution in this study
    My only question would be New Chapter Whole Omega. They are the only B corp company that I am aware of. They claim it is best to derive from Salmon vs the Nordic Naturals and Carlson sardines/anchovies route.
    Would love to know your findings on New Chapter!

  36. chris says:

    there are two things that concern me. rancid oil and contamination.

    I have tasted many oxidized oils. as you say in the bite test. most capsules are not sealed in a way to prevent oxygen from getting to the oil. start biting the fish oil capsules and you’ll taste that. the bottles are better imo but i’ve also gotten bad bottles by some of the brands you reviewed. good fish oil is kind of tasteless.

    i’m very concerned about things like mercury, arsenic. mercury is incredibly toxic and the EPA measures it in parts per billion not million. i recently checked out a lab report from my current fish oil and they listed mercury in terms of ppm. I called the company and now see the page has been removed. i should have taken a screen shot. anyway, what they listed as a threshold for testing was much higher then the EPAs standards for drinking water.

    i might have to search out other sources for fatty acids. plant based perhaps, but I hear some people have a hard time converting those to a bio available form. i believe there is a polymorphism that can be detected through genetic testing that accounts for this.

    in any case, thanks for the post. : )

  37. Joseph says:

    How do I apply this to the brand I purchased Wild Fish Oil? 1000mg. It does not state on the bottle label what the EPA and DHA amounts. It’s sea friendly all menhaden fish oil. Can you tell me anything about this brand ?

  38. michael says:

    It is interesting that Carlson come out on top but I for one am very concerned that it comes from Norway. There is a huge scandal currently related to the toxicity of the salmon farms and the related fisheries businesses. Nearly all of the fjords where water runs out to sea are so contaminated that the bed of the fjords is dead and has 15meters of concentrated dead fish and feed pulp laying on it where salmon farming is active which happens to be most of the country’s wester sea board. One female government minister is a Director of the largest processor and as well as holding the post of Agriculture minister. So corruption abounds.
    I think if you want Carlson products you need to investigate further.

    • James says:

      There is a good documentary on youtube about this. You can find it if you search “Farmed Norwegian Salmon World’s Most Toxic Food” on youtube. After watching this, I can no longer take my Carlson’s fish oil.

      • Bernie says:

        I am looking into the purity aspect of Omega 3 fish oils due to inherited gout. The levels of attack are related to the amount of purines in food (certain fish have very high levels such as anchovies, herring etc.) This corresponds to the amount of uric acid build up acid in the blood. It crystallizes in the joints, with the big toe being the location in half of the cases. One concern with regard to using fish oil for gout is the purine content of fish oil. Some worry that taking fish oil could exacerbate gout. However, fish oil does not usually contain high amounts of purines if it is pure and is processed properly – here is the concern “purity”
        One of the major safety concerns about taking fish oil is that fish oil prevents platelets from sticking together. This means if fish oil is taken in large quantities, it can make it hard for the blood to clot properly, which can cause you to bruise or bleed more easily. You should be especially wary of taking fish oil supplements if you take aspirin, warfarin or other medications that thin the blood.
        You should buy only fish oil that is pharmaceutical grade and has been molecularly distilled so one of the questions I am asking is who do you trust? After seeing the following report on YouTube, perhaps you could you make a comment as to your thoughts as to what is going on in the industry world wide?
        Farmed Norwegian Salmon World’s Most Toxic Food –
        Appreciate you time and help in this important matter
        Best regards

      • Jasmina says:

        what about Vitabiotics’ product “Ultra Cod Liver Oil Plus Omega-3”? What do you think abou this product?

        Thank you.

        KInd regards from SLovenia

  39. Porgy says:

    Nice story. Many so called “fish oils” do not contain fish oil. If the label says ethyl esters, it is not fish oil. See the GOED and all the different pharmacopoeias (USP, Bp, EuP) that describe the definition of fish oil.

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