Depending on the Internet page you land on you will find varying opinions regarding which fish oil is best. Well, this all depends on what you want to derive from the fish oil you, your family and pets consume.
Machelle Pacion - Avian Nutrition Specialist
Preferred Consumption Ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6
First of all, it must be understood that the body cannot synthesize Omega 3s. This means that Omega 3s are considered “essential fatty acids” and must be consumed for the body to function properly.
Fish oils are known for their high Omega 3 content, something all living creatures require to thrive. Unfortunately, most living creatures consume far more Omega 6s than a living body can efficiently utilize, leaving our bodies craving Omega 3s to maintain heart, brain, joint and an overall systemic nutritional balance and good health. Omega 3s even aid in the proper development of healthy gut flora and the neurotransmitters of the brain. Even though a body needs Omega 6 fat, consumed in high amounts it actually causes inflammation throughout the entire body. A very good ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s are 1:1, respectively. A good ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s are 1:2, respectively. A satisfactory ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s, is 1:4, respectively. Unfortunately, most living creatures, including domesticated animals, consume about a 1:30 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6, respectively! This is both astounding and very unfortunate! No wonder so many of us are experiencing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, joint and soft tissue disorders, leaky gut, and poor mental health!
Various Fish Oils Used For Dietary Consumption
Most commonly known and used fish oils for consumption and supplementation to diets are Cod Liver oil, Salmon oil, and Krill oil. All of these are animal sources of Omega 3s and are “long-chain” fatty acids (LCFAs). Therefore they cross the blood-brain barrier without any additional nutrients. Plant-based Omega 3s require GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) to reach the brain.(Evening Primrose oil, Borage oil – may contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids – PAs – try to obtain PA-free borage oil, and Hemp oil all contain adequate levels of GLA) I do believe in utilizing plant-based dietary fats, but I highly recommend also supplementing with animal-sourced long-chain Omega 3s for the very reason that they cross the blood-brain barrier so easily. Brains are comprised of as much or more than 70% fat. Therefore it only makes sense to supply the brain with dietary fat that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
The Popularity of Krill Oil
A long-term believer in Krill oil from the Antarctic, me, my husband and our pets have been consuming this high grade of fish oil for several years. The results have proved to be wonderful! Upon annual checkups, we always find that our HDLs (healthy) cholesterols are always higher than our LDLs (lousy) cholesterols!
We consume Krill oil from the Antarctic for its purity, the Omega 3 EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) benefits and especially for the astaxanthin it contains. I have not found a fish oil that contains as much astaxanthin as Krill oil.
The last decade Krill oil has gained much popularity among nutrition experts. I believe this is due to the unique composition of Krill oil containing high levels of astaxanthin.
Benefits of Krill Oil Astaxanthin
This very unique carotenoid acts as a precursor to naturally synthesized Vitamin A. But there’s more. Astaxanthin is highly effective as an anti-inflammatory, an effect almost all of us need today due to pollution in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we consume, and the large numbers of chemicals we are exposed to, not to mention harmful positive ions from digital equipment. This astaxanthin carotenoid is especially helpful in maintaining good eye health such as the prevention of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Astaxanthin can also be found in Salmon, but for its size Krill oil contains a higher level. Astaxanthin is what gives both Salmon its pink color and Krill its red color. Lower levels of astaxanthin can be found in shellfish such as shrimp, crab, and lobster.
The most well-known Omega 3s are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Both of these are commonly found in fish oils.* As mentioned above the most commonly processed and consumed fish oils are derived from Salmon, Cod, and Krill. Omega 3s are derived less commonly from Herring, Sardines, Mackeral, and Calamari.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fish Oils
As PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) DHA and EPA share similar qualities, but yet each offers their own unique benefits as well. Both are very important for proper fetal development. Both DHA and EPA provide nutrition for overall cell membrane health, cell membrane viscosity (pliability), brain health, they act as anti-inflammatories and healthy aging overall. Omega 3s even help balance healthy and unhealthy gut flora! These Omega 3s also help prevent cardiovascular disease by preventing and de-calcifying arterial plaque buildup. Lipid balance (cholesterol and overall triglycerides) is affected by the ratio of Omega 6s to Omega 3s. Strong medical science indicates that Omega 3s lower overall LDL (lousy) cholesterol. The energy the body needs to function optimally primarily comes from healthy dietary fatty acids.
Of new interest is the probability of the action of Omega 3s rebuilding and replenishing healthy gut flora. As it turns out Omega 3s trigger the digestive tract to produce butyric acid, the precursor to hydrochloric acid (HCL). HCL is vital in the complete and total break down of all nutrients to their “free-form” or single unit nutrients that are easily digested. This is an exciting find! So many living creatures now suffer from “leaky gut syndrome” due to modern eating habits and the consumption of highly processed foods, chemical fertilizers, artificial pesticides and the manner in which our foods are processed. With the almost definite possibility that merely consuming a diet rich in Omega 3s has the potential to prevent, or reverse leaky gut is nothing short of miraculous! Of course, we now know and understand that the digestive tract is where the production of the brain’s neurotransmitters originate. Starving ourselves, and our pets, of healthy dietary fat, may just have contributed to so many brain health issues now termed “mental illness” and “dementia.”
DHA is directly connected to brain and retina health. DHA is key in Omega 6 metabolism. This is important where heart health, small vessel, and artery health is concerned. DHA is more energetically active than EPA because of its unique bond structure. Because of this, DHA is a major free radical scavenger that contributes to heart health. The “sweeping motion” of DHA also is key in fighting inflammation and cancer cells. A diet excessively high in DHA will need GLA supplementation. DHA in high amounts can lower GLA, the precursor to DGLA which is necessary to maintain anti-inflammatory properties. When a diet is fairly balanced in DHA to EPA, this is not a concern. However, if overall healing of the brain and mental clarity is of concern, a diet slightly higher in DHA is recommended.
Even though both DHA and EPA act as anti-inflammatories, by far EPA is the Omega 3 most responsible for the anti-inflammatory actions of the Omega 3s. The more EPA in the diet, the more action taken against AA (arachidonic acid), a direct derivative from the pro-inflammatory Omega 6s. DHA, while operating as an anti-inflammatory, has little effect on cellular inflammation compared to EPA which has a large effect on decreasing cellular inflammation. So if the main goal is to reduce inflammation, both in the body and the brain, maybe a diet slightly higher in EPA is best.
Conclusions Regarding Ratios of DHA to EPA
In conclusion, the above two paragraphs may sound contradictory. This is not the case. Both DHA and EPA are wonderful overall systemic anti-inflammatories. Both have their own, unique traits and qualities. Optimumly, a fairly balanced level of each, would be consumed. This is not an easy task; it is daunting.
Not in existence is any one single fish oil that is perfectly balanced. This is why a varied diet consisting of various species of fish, and/or fish oils are best to consume. One must first determine what the ultimate goal at hand is. If overall anti-inflammatory action is desired, then consuming various oils in different quantities might be best. If healing of the brain and eyes are of concern, a combination of high DHA and astaxanthin may be needed remembering that some amount of EPA blood levels is still necessary. If overall body inflammation is desired, then the body may be better served by a diet high in EPA, and some amount of astaxanthin might be necessary, also including some amount of DHA. But a very important fact must be remembered; highly-processed foods do not contain the necessary levels of healthy dietary fatty acids living bodies require to sustain life and ultimately thrive! The bottom line; our food sources are so nutrient-deficient we may need to supplement with healthy nutrients in today’s society.
Omega 9 (Oleic Acid)
Not an Omega 3, this non-essential fatty acid (meaning the body can synthesize it) is very important! The diet need not contain a high level of Omega 9 to properly function, but unfortunately, because today’s diets are relatively unhealthy overall for a variety of reasons, the living body may not produce enough Omega 9 to maintain optimum body performance. Dietary Omega 9 is purely plant-derived. It is a plant-based monounsaturated long-chain fatty acid (LCFA).
Omega 9 is essential in preventing high cholesterol. It protects against heart disease, lowers blood pressure, improves insulin response, prevents joint and soft tissue disorders, may aid in the prevention of neuropathic disorders, prevents cancer, inhibits dementia and overall cognitive decline, it is essential for brain function, and improves mood. In fact, all of these Omegas combined, DHA, EPA and 9 may correct many cognitive brain and mood disorders!
Dietary sources of Omega 9 from the highest to a lower content are macadamia nuts, pecans, and high-oleic sunflower seed oil. Some high-oleic sunflower seed oils are organic, non-hydrogenated and high in Oleic Acid. If using high-oleic sunflower seed oil, it is best to find a brand that is higher than 50% in Oleic Acid. If the brand contains much less than 50%, it will be too high in Omega 6.
I personally believe in supplementing with both Omega 3s and Omega 9.
Levels of DHA and EPA in Various Fish
Although sardines, trout, and mollusks are relatively low in DHA and EPA, they contain near equal levels of DHA and EPA. The fish that seems to contain the highest level of DHA are caviar, salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and whitefish. The fish with the highest amounts of EPA are caviar, herring, halibut, crustaceans, anchovies, bass, bluefish, carp, flounder, and sole, salmon, sardines and trout.
I would tend to stay away from the larger fish as they have more time to absorb pollutants from the water they live in during their maturation.
If you want your family and family of pets to thrive, it may be best to use a combination of the above Omegas in dietary oil form. Since most of our food supplies are not as healthy as they were and since many of our foods contain a high amount of processed grains, pesticides and chemical fertilizers the overall nutrition just isn’t as pure and high as we once enjoyed. And, remember, healthy fat doesn’t cause obesity. Obesity comes from overeating and eating a high Omega 6 diet combined with starchy foods and refined sugars – the same recipe applies to rising cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, cognitive decline and more.
Please do take into consideration that many sources of fish and fish oil are not as pure as they once were. I absolutely do not recommend farmed fish due to the high levels of pathogens constantly measured in farm-raised fish. When consuming fish or fish oil make sure they come from the most pristine ocean waters possible. I prefer the Antarctic and the very cold Atlantic waters myself.
Happy, healthy foraging!
*DHA and EPA are also found in marine algae.
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