Ask Denise: Is Fish or Algal Oil the Best Source of Omega-3 Fats?
Denise John, our senior science editor, has a BS in in biology and a PhD in neuroscience. She learned how to juggle in gym class in ninth grade and still can. She spends a lot of her time interpreting research, and you can see what she learns about different health conditions in our growing library of articles called goop PhD. You can send your own questions for Denise to [email protected].
Dear goop, What is the best way to get your omega-3s: fish or algal oil? —Gemma L.
Hi, Gemma. It sounds like you’re familiar with the omega-3s ALA, EPA, and DHA. They’re the three common types of omega-3s that we hear about. (There are eleven total types, but not as much is known about the function of the others.) ALA is a plant-based omega-3 that is found in foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp, and walnuts. And EPA and DHA are the marine-based sources, found in fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, and tuna.
These healthy fats make up the cells throughout our entire bodies and support overall wellness—brain function, mood, focus, vision, inflammatory response, immunity, heart function, respiratory health, metabolic health, pregnancy, etc.* The omega-3s ALA, EPA, and DHA work together to support overall wellness. Research suggests that EPA works primarily to support a healthy inflammatory response and immune function, and that DHA functions primarily to support healthy brain development and function.* The research on ALA is lacking, but it’s fairly clear that ALA supports a healthy inflammatory response and has antioxidant effects. Our bodies use ALA to make EPA and DHA, but typically not a lot of ALA gets made into EPA and DHA. It varies individually (depending upon your health, diet, etc.), but it’s estimated that ALA conversion to EPA is around 8 to 12 percent, and to DHA it’s 1 percent or less.
Science shows that without enough of the omega-3s EPA and DHA, our bodies don’t function at their best. If you’re not getting the amount you need, supplementing can often help.
Omega-3 fats are staple nutrients in a healthy vitamin protocol. Two ways to get the omega-3s EPA and DHA is through marine sources: fish or algae. Fish oil is a great source of omega-3s with high amounts of EPA and DHA per serving (which you can find displayed on the supplement label) to support overall health and wellness.* It’s typically sourced from a variety of fish; the most common are anchovies, sardines, and mackerel.
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All five of goop’s vitamin protocols contain fish oils that undergo strenuous third-party testing to ensure their purity, potency, and freshness, as well as the absence of potentially harmful levels of heavy metals. Four of goop’s vitamin protocols contain one gram of the omega-3s EPA and DHA, which emerging research shows is a beneficial target. The Mother Load, our protocol for pre- and postnatal support, has the highest level, 1.47 grams, to aid in replenishing critical nutrition building blocks postbaby.*
For vegans and vegetarians, algal oil is a great plant-based source of the omega-3s EPA and DHA. You’ll notice that algal oil usually has lower amounts of EPA and DHA per serving than fish oil and more DHA than EPA per serving. In Simris Algae Omega-3, the algal oil is combined with organic cold-pressed flaxseed oil, a source of ALA, to provide a full spectrum of vegan omega-3 support. Two softgels contain 700 milligrams of omega-3s: 200 milligrams of DHA, 50 milligrams of EPA, and 450 milligrams of ALA.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.