WHICH IS BEST? By @smurray_32
Fish oils, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are two vital omega-3 fatty acids for health contributing to cardiovascular function, nervous system function, brain development, immune health & reducing stress and inflammation (Gamoh et al 1999, Hamazaki et al 1999, Morris et al 2005, Weia et al 2011, Kabir et al 2007). However, as we can’t synthesise omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids in our bodies, we need to consume them from our diets. Therefore, both FISH & fish oil SUPPLEMENTS (FOS) are often advised but which is best?
Nutritional spec: A 170g ie. average sized fillet of wild salmon can have ~880mg of EPA & 1,100mg of DHA (Kresser 2010) which can be similar to some top end FOS on the market however where real fish triumphs over FOS is that it also contains several ofther beneficial nutrients & micronutrients such as vitamin D, protein & a more complete fatty acid profile than FOS.
For example, although SOME salmon and/or cod liver oil supplements can contain a moderate amount of vitamin D, they usually don’t contain anywhere near as much as fish itself which can have as much as ~1000IU of vitamin D3/3.5oz. (Lu et al 2007). Furthermore, in terms of absorbtion, studies have shown that FOS are absorbed less efficiently by the body than when consumed from fish itself ie. the EPA & DHA levels are better absorbed into the your cells using fish form rather than FOS form (Visioli et al 2003, Kris-Etherton & Hill 2008). Finally, FOS clearly won’t provide any protein vs fish which contains high biological value protein & many of the essential amino acids required for growth & overall health (Usydus et al 2009).
Price: FOS can be dirt cheap in the grocery store vs fish which is often far more expensive however comparing price is a little unfair considering salmon providing the plethora of other nutrients mentioned. Furthermore, it is unsure whether you’d fully absorb all of the fatty acids in the cheaper FOS vs to those in fish likely being absorbed far more efficiently.
Practical implications: If you have the $ then get your fish oild from fish. If not, a FOS can HELP but may not be optimal