Yep, you read that title right!
If the 5 omega-3 supplement myths we already debunked didn’t make a splash, the following 5 surely will.
But why is it that omega-3 supplements are surrounded by murky waters of misinformation in the first place? We took this humble inquiry to Woodstock Vitamins’ big fish and notorious boat rocker, Dr. Neal.
Turns out, the main reason supplements have been in hot water lately is because the wellness industry is as lawless as the sea itself. In fact, the regulations surrounding vitamins and such are so loose, maritime law seems like a major step up.
Hoist the sails and secure your life vest, fellow wellness seeker. We’re diving back in.
In This Article:
- 5 common myths about omega-3 supplements
- Omega-3 supplements and rancidity
- Should you take an omega-3-6-9 supplement?
Myth 1: Krill is a Good Source of Omega-3
Krill are little tiny creatures swimming in the ocean, minding their business, getting eaten by whales and living their #bestlives.
Then, one day in America, fish oil and Omega-3 supplements blow up, and now they’re harvested as a “superior” source of Omega-3.Dr. Neal Smoller
We wrapped up the first blog in this two-part myth-busting series with a doozy of a debunk: Flaxseed is not a good source of omega-3.
Fortunately for krill and unfortunately for krill-lovers, the tides are turning on this supplement, too. Krill does contain the essential omega-3 fatty acids that have been in the spotlight for heart, brain, and skin benefits, but…not nearly enough.
Krill supplements typically come in at a whopping 100mg of EPA and DHA per capsule. And who wants to take THIRTY capsules just to hit that target dose?
At best, krill supplements are a waste of money. At worst, they’re rancid, loaded with toxins, and actively detrimental to your health.
All fish-based omega-3 supplements have toxin and rancidity risk factors, and krill is no exception. These tiny denizens of the deep are exposed to and absorb the pollutants we’ve dumped in the sea, and they degrade really quickly.
As a result, krill oil products can be inundated with heavy metals and microplastics and are likely to turn rancid faster than, say, an Alaskan fish oil.
Myth 2: Rancidity isn’t a Big Deal
Okay, so krill oils are decidedly not krillin’ it, but they’re not alone in their grossness either.
Fish oils from any and all aquatic sources can go bad, and they can actually go bad very easily. It’s true — despite all the modern processing technology we have rancidity is still a huge deal.
Learn More: Something Fishy | Dr. Neal’s Monthly Rant
By the time cheap omega-3 supplements reach your doorstep or grocery cart, they’ve likely been sitting in a warehouse for months. And it’s equally unlikely that the cheaper formula has been crafted specifically for a longer shelf life.
If your omega-3 supplement turns rancid, the anti-inflammatory health benefits aren’t only negated, but directly inverted. Once sour, your fish oil will have a pro-inflammatory effect on your body.
Plus, recent animal studies have shown that exposure to rancid, or over oxidized, fish oil may cause organ damage and carcinogenesis, or the initiation of cancer formations.
The main takeaway? Skimping on your omega-3 supplement will end up costing your body and wallet a lot more in the long run. Instead, look for a fresh, regularly tested omega-3 supplement with an ultra-low TOTOX value.
Myth 3: Enteric Coating is Crucial
Enteric coating was the wellness industry’s answer to continued issues with rancidity. The only problem is that enteric coating doesn’t really lower your chances of getting a rancid fish oil supplement, it just masks the signs.
Typically, a rancid omega-3 supplement will smell and taste exactly like you’d expect — rotten fish. But that foul fragrance we’ve come to rely on as a marker for rancidity can be completely obscured by our good old friend enteric coating.
“Enteric coating isn’t the sophisticated technology its made out to be — really, it’s a parlor trick to hide a major quality problem.”Dr. Neal Smoller
Enteric coating isn’t all bad though. Unfortunately for black-and-white thinkers, the conversation is rather nuanced.
We use enteric-coated capsules in our carefully formulated Alaskan omega-3 supplement, for example, but not because it will help with the fish burps. (Another myth!)
The benefit here is that an enteric-coated fish oil capsule will survive longer in the digestive system, releasing the nutrients into your small intestine after it’s passed through your GI tract.
The main takeaway? Never buy an omega-3 supplement solely for the enteric coating. If enteric coating is the main draw of the product you’re looking at, it’s likely being used to mask the smell and taste of rancidity.
Myth 4: You Should Take an Omega-3-6-9 Supplement
When it comes to omega-3 supplements, isn’t more always better?
Well, yes and no. More EPA and DHA per dose is a good thing, more numbers in the product title isn’t.
Omega-3-6-9 products have gained a bit of traction in the wellness world because, at first blush, they seem like a comprehensive option. In reality, these 3-in-1 omega supplements don’t do any of their three jobs very well:
- Omega-3: Typically, an omega-3-6-9 product won’t have enough omega-3 to yield any benefit whatsoever. (Remember those clinically-studied doses we’ve talked about a bazillion times?)
- Omega-6: Unless you’re supplementing omega-6 for menopause or skin health, you don’t need to take more of this pro-inflammatory fatty acid. In fact, most of us Americans are already getting waaaayyyy too much omega-6 from the processed foods in our diets.
- Omega-9: This omega fatty acid is non-essential, plain and simple. The seed and nut oils found in a healthy diet are more than enough to bridge the omega-9 nutrient gap you might — but likely don’t — have.
So that omega-3-6-9 supplement that seems like a good deal? It’s actually overpriced, over-hyped bunk.
Myth 5: EPA- and DHA-Only Supplements Are Healthier
Yes, EPA and DHA are the shining stars of the omega-3 supplement show. They’re the fatty acids that have been linked to a whole host of benefits like:
- Boosted cognitive performance
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Rebalanced immune function
- Improved depression symptoms
- Enhanced skin health
But it’s not a two-man band. Your omega-3 supplement strategy will work best if you’re getting a balance of all three essential fatty acids.
ALA, EPA, and DHA.
ALA has risen and fallen from public favor in a roller-coaster ride of acronyms and conflicting opinions. It went like this: We believed that our bodies had the ability to convert ALA into the highly beneficial forms EPA and DHA.
Plant-based omega-3 supplements — notorious for being high in ALA and not much else — got really popular as a result. The two other fatty acids fell to the wayside, despite the continued waves of research in support of EPA and DHA supplementations.
Then we found out that, actually, our bodies don’t synthesize APA into EPA and DHA very well. In fact, the conversion rate is so low it barely makes a ripple.
So EPA and DHA stepped into the limelight, and ALA was shunted backstage.
While we agree that emphasizing EPA and DHA is the way to go — who are we to disagree with the science? — there’s still a place for ALA in our hearts. The human body can’t produce ALA on its own so it must be absorbed through food sources or supplements.
Boiled down: Focus on getting enough EPA and DHA from your omega-3 supplement, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Make sure you’re eating enough fish and flaxseed to get the ALA your body needs, too.
E-Fish-ient Omega-3 Supplementation
The benefits are proven, our diets are lacking it, and the only thing standing in the way of successful supplementation is misinformation.
But not any more!
Go forth, wellness seeker, and start your omega-3 journey equipped with the truth about these common myths. If you need a co-captain, you can sail on over to our Counterside Consults for free, personalized health guidance from our experts.