How much fish oil should I take?
Most omega-3 consumers follow the instructions on their supplement label and take just one or two fish oil capsules a day, thinking that is enough.
But, in many cases, getting an effective dose of omega-3 – the kind of dose that provides the health benefits reported in thousands of research studies – requires significantly more capsules a day.
Consider the Amount of EPA/DHA
The labels of omega-3 brands often recommend a wide variety of dosages because different products contain different amounts of EPA and DHA.
“I was told to take 1000mg of fish oil every day,” we often hear customers say. What health care providers and customers alike need to understand is that 1000mg of natural fish oil only contains one-third of the powerful workhorses of the omega-3 family – the EPA and DHA.
Why is it necessary to look at the levels of EPA and DHA? Because in the 1970s, when two Danish researchers went to Greenland to find out why the Inuits had such low levels of cardiovascular disease (in spite of the fact that over 40% of their total caloric intake was made up of fat), they discovered that the two most abundant molecules behind this fat paradox were polyunsaturated fatty acids: EPA and DHA.
Therefore, the majority of the medical research has focused on EPA and DHA, even though they are not the sole members of the omega-3 family. Later research then found that these fatty acids were not only important for good cardiovascular health, but also for brain, eye, mood, and joint health.
The efficacy level from many of these studies is set between two and three grams (2000-3000mg) per day. Again, remember that we are talking about EPA and DHA, not just fish oil. In fact, the anti-inflammatory reaction of EPA doesn’t seem to kick in unless you consume at least 2000mg each day.
The Standard EPA/DHA Equivalents
While you have to check the back of the label to figure out the exact values of EPA/DHA in your omega-3 supplement, we’ve done some the math for you by looking at common omega-3 products. Here’s what we found:
- One regular fish oil capsule – Around 300mg of EPA/DHA.
- One capsules of krill oil – Around 75mg of EPA/DHA.
- One teaspoon of liquid fish oil – 1200 mg of EPA/DHA.
- One high concentrate fish oil capsule – Up to 600mg EPA/DHA.
- A normal-size serving of salmon fillet – Up to 3000mg EPA/DHA (depending on the time of year, how it is prepared and where it is coming from, etc).
If you look closely at this table, a few facts should jump out. First and foremost, one teaspoon of liquid fish oil contains about four times as much EPA/DHA as one fish oil capsule. And, more shockingly, to get as much omega-3 as you would from eating a salmon fillet for dinner, you’d have to consume a minimum of 10 fish oil capsules! In other words, taking one capsule doesn’t give you much more than a bite or two of salmon. That’s hardly enough!
Can I get too much?
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that consuming up to 5000mg of omega-3 is safe. Taking more than 5000mg (about 5 teaspoons worth of fish oil) doesn’t give any added benefits, so why use more than that?
Consider the Quality of the Oil
While it is important to look at the amount of EPA and DHA on the back of your label, fixating on those fatty acids alone may be short sighted.
When manufacturers artificially pump up the EPA or DHA to make high concentrated capsules, they are unfortunately also creating trans fats and other unhealthy by-products in addition. A research study from Norway found that high-concentrated omega-3 fish oil products had statistically higher oxidation levels than omega-3 fish oils with normal concentration levels. These high-concentrated oils tended to have more of the unhealthy by-products that come with higher oxidation levels.
To learn more about the importance of low oxidation levels, freshness, and high-concentrate fish oils, check out our revealing whitepaper, “The Rancid Truth About Fish Oil.”