Getting good omega-3s

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:22 p.m.

Q: I heard most fish-oils supplements don't deliver the health benefits they claim. Is that true, and what's a good alternative?

A: Fish-oil supplements are just that, supplements, and therefore not tightly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Most of the omega-3 fish-oil supplements that are on the market today are EPA and DHA EE (ethyl ester) concentrates, or what we call resynthesized fish oil. The problem is that resynthesized ethyl ester fish oil contains a form of DHA that keeps natural DHA from doing its job on a molecular and cellular level. And the EE concentrates only have about 50 percent of the bioavailability of the true omega-3s (EPA and DHA) that come straight from fish or algae (which is where the fish get theirs).

This matters, because many people take fish oil to help lower their blood pressure, reduce body-wide inflammation, prevent heart disease and cancer, and manage type 2 diabetes. But we know resynthesized fish oil fails to deliver blood-pressure-lowering benefits, for example, and that's a heart-health hazard.

So, always be vigilant about reading the labels and double-check to make sure your fish oil is not an ethyl ester or EE; it should be a triglyceride (TG). If it doesn't say it's TG, look for another source. When you do, there are some easy options:

1. Get your omega-3 DHA from algal oil supplements. We do; microalgae are what fish eat to make their omega-3s.

2. Feast on DHA two or three times a week from a 3- to 4-ounce serving of salmon or ocean trout — the only two fish commonly available in the U.S. that are sure to have an ample dose of DHA.

3. Or be super-safe and go for options 1 and 2. We take 900 IU of algal-oil DHA a day as an insurance policy, in case we miss our serving of salmon.

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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