At Smarter Reviews, we employ a comprehensive evaluation system to analyze and measure the full value of products, by looking at the ingredients, safety, projected effectiveness, return policies, and overall customer satisfaction. This method is known as the Smarter Reviews Ranking System.
In addition to ranking products, we also collect research from the latest studies and clinical trials. Choosing the best product is easy with Smarter Reviews. We offer a clear-cut system that covers the most important criteria, and takes into account the experienced personal reviews of our valued Smarter Shoppers. We've taken the guesswork out of the process, so you can shop smart, and save on time and money.
Do I Really Need an Omega-3 Supplement?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating at least two, 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, etc.) per week, while the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) titled an article "U.S. adults are not meeting the recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake." 13
The NHANES concluded that omega-3 fatty acids are deemed important and dietary supplementation—in addition to food sources—may need to be considered to achieve (omega-3) recommendation levels in the American population. 13
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are essential for a reason, and it's clear that supplementation may be needed to meet the daily amount our bodies use.
But how do we know which kind of omega-3 fatty acid supplement is best?
Smarter Reviews has spent months compiling extensive research of omega-3 products to help you choose the right supplement for your needs.
What are Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3s are commonly found in fatty fish like salmon, small shellfish like krill, and in many vegetable oils. There are three main omega-3 EFAs: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is the most common omega-3, and is found in vegetable oil, nuts, flax seeds, leafy vegetables, and some animal fats.*3 EPA and DHA are commonly found in fatty fish.3
Omega-3 101: Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids Revealed
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) are found throughout our bodies—in fact, they help protect and insulate each and every one of our cells. Perhaps one of the reasons why omega-3 EFAs are so popular is because of the wide range of health benefits they have been shown to provide in hundreds of clinical studies throughout the years.
Additionally, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, omega-3s "have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play protective roles against cancer and other conditions." 3
Unfortunately, our bodies cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids. That's just one reason why it is imperative to obtain EFAs through the foods we eat, and through dietary supplementation.
Choosing the right Omega-3 Supplement
Omega-3 EFAs are the most widely used supplements in the United States, and many companies are making omega supplements that are—unfortunately—not necessarily in the consumer's best interests.
Reading the label is one of the most important things you can do to prevent a bad experience when choosing the best omega-3 supplement. The lists below highlight certain things you should avoid and notable things you need to look for.
TRY TO Avoid:
- Heavy metal contamination (mercury and PCBs)*
- Artificial colors*
- Caramel color*
ALWAYS Look For:
- Omega-3 sources (preferably Krill)
- Total Omega-3 content*
- High amounts of EPA and DHA*
What is the Best Omega-3 Source?
When choosing the best omega-3 supplement, one of the main things you should look for is the source of omega-3. Fish oil has traditionally been a popular source for omega-3s, but due to the emergence of heavy metals in bodies of water, and overfishing in our oceans, krill oil has significantly grown in popularity.
Over the past year, many of our Smarter Shoppers have asked, "What omega-3 supplement should I take—krill oil or fish oil?"
We researched the answer and found several reasons why krill oil may be the superior choice.
Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil
- Krill and fish oil similarly contain EPA and DHA, but they differ in the way that the omegas are bonded. The omegas in krill oil are mostly bonded to phospholipids while in fish oil they are bonded to triglycerides. The fat cells in humans are also in phospholipid form. A study done on the metabolic effects of krill oil concluded that the omega-3s from krill oil may be more readily and effectively absorbed after ingestion and distribution into the bloodstream.14 Furthermore, the unexpectedly high content of free EPA and DHA in krill oil might have a significant influence on its bioavailability. 21
- In addition to krill oil's perhaps greater absorption, krill oil is known to have less fishy aftertastes when a high quality supplement is made with pure krill oil.
- Krill oil is a major source of astaxanthin, and has strong antioxidant activity.15 Astaxanthin cannot be produced by humans, and has a natural, intense, red color found on krill, lobster, and crayfish. It is also naturally occurring in flamingo feathers.17 This powerful antioxidant may help reduce rough skin, and results may suggest that astaxanthin can improve skin condition in all layers of the skin, in both women and men.16 Astaxanthin has also been shown to significantly increase HDL-cholesterol levels.18 Unfortunately, fish oil does not contain astaxanthin—however, astaxanthin can be fed to farmed seafood for coloring.17
***Safety Warning*** - A notable concern when deciding to choose between fish oil and krill oil is the rising contamination levels in our oceans.
MercuryMercury is a highly reactive heavy metal, and the long-term exposure to low levels of mercury are highly misunderstood.18 Mercury may make people susceptible to arherosclerotic disease—a disease in which plaque builds inside your arteries.18
PCBsPCBs—or polychlorinated biphenyls—are a group of manufactured organic chemicals. PCBs account for 209 individually chlorinated chemicals.19 PCBs typically have a higher concentration in fish, even with low levels of PCBs in the water.
The major concerns with these two contaminants are that they are persistent in our oceans, and they accumulate up the food chain. Basically, big fish eat little fish, and since big fish are higher up the food chain, the concentration levels of heavy metals (mercury and PCBs) has an increased chance of being dangerous to humans. 19-20
Since fish oil may be extracted from the tissues of fish that are higher up the food chain, it might be more contaminated. However, krill are at the very bottom of the food chain, their lifespans are shorter than fish, and since krill eat algae they are relatively free of dioxins and PCBs. 20
2019's Top 5 Omega-3 Supplement Brands on the Market
We tested 72 different omega-3 supplements, and based on our 5 pillars of excellence: ingredient safety, projective effectiveness, value, return policy, and customer satisfaction, we discovered the Top 5 Omega-3 Supplements of 2019.