Omega-3 Supplement

The best way to get enough of omega-3 is to include foods that are rich in omega-3 in your diet, like fatty fish,walnut etc.

Updated: June 16, 2022

Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for health. The best way to get enough of omega-3 is to include foods that are rich in omega-3 in your diet, like fatty fish,walnut etc.

Different Forms of Omega-3s:

Omega-3s come in several forms, most commonly as triglycerides. Fish oil comes in both natural and processed forms. The processing can affect the form of the fatty acids. This is important, because some forms are absorbed better than others. Some fish oils that are more processed may contain omega-3 ethyl esters, which aren't absorbed as well.

  • Fish: In whole fish, omega-3 fatty acids are present as free fatty acids, phospholipids and triglycerides.
  • Fish oil: In conventional fish oils, omega-3 fatty acids are mostly present as triglycerides.
  • Processed fish oil: When fish oils are processed, either to purify or concentrate them, they become ethyl esters, which are not found in nature and aren't absorbed also.
  • Reformed triglycerides: The ethyl esters in processed fish oils can be converted back into triglycerides, which are then termed 'reformed' triglycerides.

All of these forms have health benefits. However, the absorption of omega-3 from ethyl esters is not as good as from the other forms.
The absorption of omega-3s in the form of free fatty acids those are mostly found in food is 50% greater than triglycerides, and the absorption of triglycerides is 50% greater than ethyl esters

Natural Fish Oil:

Natural fish oil contains EPA and DHA. It also contains vitamins A and D, as well as other fats that help with absorption. This is the oil that comes from the tissue of oily fish, mostly in the form of triglycerides. It is the closest thing you can get to real fish.
Natural fish oil contains several important nutrients. About 30% of the oil is omega-3 (EPA and DHA), while the remaining 70% consists of other fatty acids that can help with absorption. Additionally, natural fish oil contains vitamins A and D. If it is fermented, it also contains vitamin K2. Salmon, sardines and cod liver are among the most common sources of natural fish oil. These oils are usually found in liquid form, and are more resistant to oxidation than processed oils

Processed Fish Oil:

Processed fish oils are purified and/or concentrated. They are more vulnerable to oxidation and less easily absorbed by the body. They can be absorbed if converted back into triglycerides via a synthetic process. Processed fish oil is usually purified and/or concentrated, which transforms the fats into the ethyl ester form. Contaminants, such as mercury and PCBs are removed in the process of purification. Concentrating the oil can also increase EPA and DHA levels. In fact, these oils may contain 50–90% pure EPA and/or DHA.
As processed fish oil are cheap and usually come in capsules, which are popular with consumers, they make up the vast majority of the fish oil market. Because of the presence of the ethyl ester form, the body does not absorb processed fish oil as well as natural fish oil. However, some oil are processed even further to convert it back into a synthetic triglyceride form, which is well absorbed. These oils are referred to as reformed or re-esterified triglycerides. They are the most expensive fish oil supplements and only make up a small percentage of the market. 

Krill Oil:

Krill oil is extracted from Antarctic krill which is a small shrimp-like animal. Krill oil contains omega-3s in both triglyceride and phospholipid form. Omega-3 is absorbed just as well from the phospholipids in krill oil as from the triglycerides in fish oil. As krill oil naturally contains a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin, it is highly resistant to oxidation.
As krill are very small and have a short lifespan, so they don't accumulate many contaminants during their lifetime. Therefore, their oil doesn't need to be purified, and is rarely found in the ethyl ester form. Krill oil is naturally low in contaminants and contains a potent antioxidant. It provides EPA and DHA in both triglyceride and phospholipid form, which are well absorbed.

Green-Lipped Mussel Oil:

This shellfish contains several forms of omega-3s, and is considered to be an environmentally friendly choice. The green-lipped mussel oil is usually in the form of triglycerides and free fatty acids. It also contains eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA) along with EPA and DHA. This is a very rare form of omega-3 fatty acid and may be even more effective at lowering inflammation.

Mammalian Oil:

Mammalian omega-3 oil is made from seal blubber, and is in the form of natural triglycerides. It contains docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), EPA and DHA. DPA is a rare omega-3 fatty acid with several health benefits.

ALA Oil:

ALA or alpha-linolenic acid is the plant form of omega-3. It is found in particularly high amounts in flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. These do not contain any EPA or DHA, the types of omega-3s that are active in the human body. It needs to be converted into EPA or DHA in order to become useful. But this conversion process is severely limited in humans. These are also a rich source of omega-6 than omega-3.  

Algal Oil:

Marine algae, particularly microalgae, is another triglyceride source of EPA and DHA. The EPA and DHA in fish originate in algae when they eat it. Algal oil is even more concentrated in omega-3s, particularly DHA, than fish oil. It also contain important minerals like iodine. It is environmentally friendly and considered an excellent omega-3 source for vegetarians and vegans. Additionally, algal oil doesn't contain any contaminants, such as heavy metals which makes it a particularly good option.

Omega-3 Capsules:

Omega-3 oils are commonly found in capsules or soft gels. The capsules are usually made from a soft layer of gelatin and many has enteric coating. Enteric coating helps keep the capsule from being dissolved until it reaches the small intestines. This is common in fish oil capsules, as it prevents fish burps.
However, it can also mask the foul smell of rancid fish oil. It may be a good idea to open the capsule from time to time and smell it in order to make sure the capsule hasn't gone rancid. Since they don't have a taste and are easy to swallow, capsules are a popular way to take omega-3.

Things to be Taken Care When Buying Supplements:

You should always read the label carefully while shopping for an omega-3 supplement.
Also check the following:

Type of omega-3:

Make sure the supplement contains EPA and DHA, the most important types of omega-3.

Amount of omega-3:

A supplement may say on the front that it contains 1000 mg fish oil per capsule. However, on the back you will read that EPA and DHA are only 320 mg.

Form of omega-3:

Look for FFA (free fatty acids), TG, rTG (triglycerides and reformed triglycerides), and PLs (phospholipids), rather than EE (ethyl esters) for better absorption.

Purity and authenticity:

Try to buy products that have either the GOED standard for purity or a 'third party tested' stamp on them. This shows they are probably safe and actually contain what they say they do.


Omega-3s are prone to going rancid. Once they go bad, they will have a foul smell, and become less potent or even harmful. Always check the date, smell the product and see if it contains an antioxidant like vitamin E. These antioxidant help combat rancidity.


Try to buy fish oil that is certified by the MSC, the Environmental Defense Fund or a similar organization. Small fish with short lifespans tend to be more sustainable
A regular fish oil supplement is probably enough for most people just looking to optimize their health. If you need large doses of omega-3, take a supplement with concentrated omega-3s.
A natural fish oil usually consists of no more than 30% EPA and DHA, which means 70% is other fats, where as a supplement with concentrated omega-3s has EPA and DHA as high as 90%. So, look for brands that contains omega-3s as free fatty acids, triglycerides or phospholipids. It is best to take these supplements with a meal that contains fat, as fat increases the absorption of omega-3s.
As omega-3s are perishable, just like fish, don not buy in bulk amount. Omega-3s may be one of the most beneficial supplements you can take. However.make sure to choose the right one.

Health Benefits of omega-3:

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important in preventing and managing heart disease. These are beneficial for healthy people and also those with heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help to:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce triglycerides
  • Slow the development of plaque in the arteries
  • Reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm
  • Reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke
  • Lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease

It is recommended to eat fish (particularly fatty, coldwater fish) at least twice a week. Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, and tuna are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids. While foods are your best bet for getting omega-3s in your diet, fish oil supplements are also available for those who do not like fish.

Side effects with omega-3 fish oil:

Taking up to 3 grams of fish oil daily in supplement form is considered safe for a healthy person. Don't take more than that unless it is required and before discussing it with your doctor first.
Side effects from omega-3 fish oil may include:

  • A fishy taste in your mouth
  • Fishy breath
  • Stomach upset
  • Loose motions
  • Nausea

Taking more than 3 grams of fish oil daily may increase the risk of bleeding. Talk to your doctor first if you want to take higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplements. Your doctor can guide you in supplementing your diet with omega-3 fish oil. Your doctor can also monitor all aspects of your health if you take higher doses of fish oil. Prescription omega-3 preparations are also available for people with very high triglyceride levels.

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