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[Review] The Complete Fish Oil Buyer’s Guide – 26 Top Products Reviewed

complete fish oil buyers guide, best fish oil products, best fish oil supplements, fish oil, fish oil supplements

Fish oil is the most popular supplement in America1; it’s also a market hypersaturated to the point of exhaustion. On Amazon.com a search for “fish oil” returns 28,697 results; Google Shopping sends back a whopping 164,000; and Bodybuilding.com spits out a relatively meager 161 products.

Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned supplement vet (you know it’s really bad when I was personally taking a 1-star fish oil product), shopping for fish oil can be a deceptive, overwhelming, overly complicated process. We’re here to cut through the clutter and help you save cash on one of the most important supplements for your all-around health.

The truth about the fish oil category is that 90% of the top product listings on the major websites above are misleading, overpriced, and frankly, complete gar-báge. They sit under the umbrella of supplement titans and rely on 3 major things to inject themselves into consumer shopping carts:

1. instant brand name recognition & credibility (e.g. Optimum Nutrition, GNC)
2. intentionally deceptive marketing & labeling
3. costumer naivete and impulse buying

Here’s the reality: When you see front-label claims of 1,000 mg, 1,400 mg, 50,000 mg fish oil, this means NOTHING. What matters resides on the backside of the bottle and requires a little savvy investigation: EPA & DHA content, the % of EPA/DHA present, and most importantly, price relative to the rest of the market.

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) & DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are omega-3 fatty acids linked to a number of major health benefits, including: decreased triglycerides and blood pressure234; prevention of inflammatory diseases (arthritis) and atherosclerosis, which can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke56789; increased HDL (good) cholesterol levels10; improved cognitive function11; shunted breast cancer development12; and potentially even enhanced muscle protein synthesis13.

Quality of this oil is also CRITICAL, and somewhat paradoxically, the same “big brand” supplement goliaths that we’ve come to trust don’t manufacture high quality fish oils. The top products, and the ones I highly recommend spending your money on, are 5-star IFOS rated. IFOS is an independent ratings agency that tests fish oil products against 5 markers of quality14:

    • Purity, safety, and cleanliness (PCBs and highly toxic chemicals like dioxins and furans)
    • Heavy metal content (mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic)
    • Accurate labeling (actual DHA & EPA levels vs. labeled claims)
    • Oxidation and stability (peroxide, anisidine levels)
    • Omega-3 concentration (>60% omega-3-to-total oil)

Given the proliferation of toxin-laced, farmed fish that can actually do more harm than good, THESE are the products that you want 100% of the time — they’re safe, incredibly effective, and actually deliver the health benefits expected from fish oil.


 

The Top 26 Fish Oil Products Reviewed


fishoil

Think about the last time you bought fish oil — what did you base your decision off of? I’ll bet for the majority of you that it was either brand name or that lofty front-end total oil claim.

Like shopping for a new smartphone, house, or HDTV, it’s time to become a smarter, leaner supplementeur. We’ve researched, analyzed, and graded 26 of the most popular fish oil products listed on Amazon/BB.com to come up with a definitive ranking based on EPA/DHA content, overall quality, and price (aka bang for your buck). Some notables:

– Our 5 star rated oils, and the ones we highly recommend spending your money on, include:

 

– IFOS 5 star ratings — often referred to as pharmaceutical grade — are reserved for the upper echelon of fish oil, and should be what you take, but there’s a limit to what’s reasonable price-wise. Products like Barlean’s Fresh Catch Ultra EPA-DHA and NordicNaturals Ultimate Omega-3 are insanely expensive; fortunately Carlson Labs and Life Extension provide value out of the IFOS tier.

– 8 out of 21 products fall into the dirty 30 club (Optimum Nutrition Fish Oil, Bodybuilding.com Fish Oil, Spring Valley Fish Oil 1000). That is, only 30% total EPA/DHA per serving, the rest being useless filler oil. Powerful marketing and lofty numbers on the outside; horrible products without much useful oil on the inside (not to mention unnecessary calories).

– Notice how price per gram of EPA/DHA differs from price per serving — EPA/DHA per serving is what matters, just like % ABV in beer, mg caffeine in your daily triple espresso, % of yellow Swedish Fish per bag, or grams of protein in a post-workout shake are the principal metrics of their respective potency and value. Fish oil from GNC, Optimum Nutrition, and AllMax are laughably overpriced and should be avoided completely.

Click to enlarge each individual frame, or download the printable ‘Complete Fish Oil Buyer’s Guide’ here.15

 

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References, Notes, Links

  1. http://www.consumerlab.com/news/Most-Popular-Supplements-Survey/2_5_2012/ []
  2. Zulyniak MA, Perreault M, Gerling C, Spriet LL, Mutch DM. Fish oil supplementation alters circulating eicosanoid concentrations in young healthy men. Metabolism. 2013 Mar 20. pii: S0026-0495(13)00051-6. []
  3. Arnarson A, Geirsdottir OG, Ramel A, Jonsson PV, Steingrimsdottir L, Thorsdottir I. Dietary habits and their association with blood pressure among elderly Icelandic people. Laeknabladid. 2012 Oct;98(10):515-20. []
  4. Nilsson A, Radeborg K, Salo I, Björck I. Effects of supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on cognitive performance and cardiometabolic risk markers in healthy 51 to 72 years old subjects: a randomized controlled cross-over study. Nutr J. 2012 Nov 22;11:99. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-99. []
  5. Linoleic acid, a dietary n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, and the aetiology of ulcerative colitis: a nested case–control study within a European prospective cohort study. Gut. 2009 58: 1606-1611 []
  6. Simopoulos AP. Omega-3 fatty acids and athletics. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2007;6(4):230-236 []
  7. Maroon JC, Bost JW. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: An alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol. 2006;65(4):326-331. []
  8. Carter JR, Schwartz CE, Yang H, Joyner MJ. Fish Oil and Neurovascular Reactivity to Mental Stress in Humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Feb 13. []
  9. Chowdhury R, Stevens S. Association between fish consumption, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 345 []
  10. Nestel P. Fish oil and cardiovascular disease: lipids and arterial function. Am J Clin Nutr. January 2000 vol. 71 no. 1 228S-231S []
  11. Rachetti AL, Arida RM, Patti CL, Zanin KA. Fish oil supplementation and physical exercise program: distinct effects on different memory tasks. Behav Brain Res. 2013 Jan 15;237:283-9. []
  12. Brasky T, Lampe J, Potter J, Patterson R, White E. Specialty Supplements and Breast Cancer Risk in the VITamins And Lifestyle (VITAL) Cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. July 2010 19; 1696 []
  13. Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, Mohammed BS, Rankin D, Rennie MJ, Mittendorfer B. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 February; 93(2): 402–412. []
  14. IFOS Program Ratings Criteria []
  15. All data is sourced from IFOS’ Consumer Reports, Amazon.com, Bodybuilding.com, and individual company websites []

 

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto