I've read many, many articles recently about how great fish oil is for you. Awesome. I'm in.

The hard part - which fish oil should I take? There are so many of them.

What attributes make a fish oil "high quality"?

closed as off topic by user3085, Matt Chan Jun 8 '12 at 2:07

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  • I'd rather just eat the fish – DForck42 Mar 9 '12 at 20:14
  • Unless there is some connection to exercise, this question is closed as off-topic according to the faq. If it is edited to be on-topic and fits the scope of the site, reopening the question will not be an issue. – Matt Chan Jun 8 '12 at 2:06

My source for information on this topic is Whole9:

Your fish oil should be free of soy (including lecithin), dairy, wheat, rice, sweeteners or other artificial ingredients.

What fish oil brands does Whole9 recommend?

A: The brand we take personally is Stronger Faster Healthier’s OmegaMaine. We’ve tried lots of other brands, and like quite a few (including Carlson’s and Nordic Naturals), but we choose OmegaMaine for three reasons.

  • First, the ingredients are squeaky clean – no soy, dairy, wheat, sweeteners or other artificial ingredients.
  • Second, it has more EPA and DHA per teaspoon (1.8 grams!) than other high quality brands, and taking in a bunch of fragile PUFAs besides EPA and DHA isn’t a great idea. Prioritize the EPA and DHA, and minimize your PUFA intake in general.
  • Third, it comes in five palatable flavors (lemon, tangerine, mint, chocolate and vanilla), and all taste pretty darn good… for fish oil.

They have a lot more, including brand recommendations and frequently asked questions. Their general supplement checklist is good stuff too. Some excerpts:

  • Is the product designed to replace real, high quality, fresh food in your diet?
  • Are the product’s claims too good to be true?
  • ...is it cost-prohibitive to eating better quality food?

This article from the New York Times cites a consumerlabs.com report (can't link directly to report because you have to sign up) which says that large chains like Walmart/Costco store brands are typically high quality:

In any case, ConsumerLab.com says it has found a few patterns that consumers may find helpful. Products sold by vitamin chains tend to be more reliable than drugstore brands, and Wal-Mart and Costco’s vitamin lines are usually worth considering. In a recent test of multivitamins, ConsumerLab.com found that Equate-Mature Multivitamin 50+ sold by Wal-Mart was just as good as the name brand Centrum Silver, but at less than a nickel a day is half the price.

Note that even though the study was for multi-vitamins, I'm assuming that the same standards for manufacturing the pills are carried over into different vitamins/supplements. The only way to not have to make this assumption would be to point to an equivalent study for fish oil and I don't know of one (feel free to upvote/accept someone else if they happen to find one). This does make sense though because whoever produces the highest volume will likely discover the most problems and be more apt to roll out fixes to the manufacturing process. Pills aren't like food/beer/whiskey/wine where quality tends to go up when made in smaller batches.

So I'm sure if you just picked up the walmart store brand you'll be fine. Keep in mind that "quality vitamin" just means that the contents of the bottle match what the nutrition facts say they do. In terms of amounts and how much you should be taking you should look into research on amounts used in fish oil studies and I know from experience that fish oil pills do vary in amount of oil per pill, so you should definetly pay attention to this.

  • There are different brands at Wal-Mart, sometimes. I'm guessing it's talking about the SPECIFIC Walmart "in house" brand, so don't assume everything sold there is good. – Matt Mar 9 '12 at 22:16
  • Good point. Bolded the walmart store brand for emphasis. – Dave Mar 9 '12 at 23:08

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