DHA Supplement Watch --
Five Tips to Find the Best Fish Oil
for Inflammatory Arthritis, Heart Health
Want the best DHA supplement? Don’t know how to begin? This article contains five tips, because not all fish oil is the same quality. (Surprise: not even those labeled “pharmaceutical grade” are the best, although one is).
DHA and EPA are both found in fish oil. According to the According to the Mayo Clinic, multiple studies report improvement in morning stiffness and joint tenderness with regular use of these key omega 3 fatty acids for up to three months.
Evidence from multiple studies supports taking DHA/EPA in dietary fish or fish oil supplements to lower triglycerides, reduce the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease. Studies also show that DHA/EPA slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques ("hardening of the arteries"), and lowers blood pressure slightly.
The best source of DHA/EPA (omega 3 fatty acids) is fish oil
Dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids include fish oil from fish or fish oil supplements, and certain plant nut oils. Fish oil contains the two most important omega 3’s, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) while some nuts (English walnuts) and vegetable oils (canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, olive) contain another omega 3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Two omega 3’s – DHA and EPA -- produce the most identified health benefits of the seven omega-3 fatty acids. The best source of DHA and EPA is fish oil, whether from dietary fish or fish oil supplements. Over 4,500 research studies on omega 3s effects on overall health have been conducted in the last 25 years.
Five tips to find the best DHA supplement
Whether for heart health or inflammatory arthritis improvement, the following five tips will help you make an informed choice for the best DHA supplement (our recommendation appears in the “although one is” link in first paragraph above, and in a “Recommended” paragraph at the end of this article):
- Pharmaceutical grade
- DHA/EPA amount per serving size
- Multistep molecular distillation
- Guarantee of purity in writing
- Record of clinical studies by the manufacturer
A breakdown of each tip follows:
Tip #1. The DHA supplement should have “pharmaceutical grade” on its label
Look for pharmaceutical grade imprinted on the fish oil label.
A DHA supplement labeled “pharmaceutical grade” is generally higher in quality and purity than non pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplements. The dictionary defines pharmaceutical grade as “of a standard suitable for use as a medicine.”
As a dietary supplement, however, “pharmaceutical grade” is simply the newest marketing generation for certain fish oil products. There are no government regulations in place by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the dietary supplement industry to define the use of the term “pharmaceutical grade”.
The FDA considers dietary supplements as foods, not as drugs. Compared to drugs, enforcement of foods is decidedly not rigid In point of fact, the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) rules for the industry do not require standardized purity testing nor proof of product efficacy for any dietary supplement, including DHA/EPA (fish oil) supplements.
How can you determine if any fish oil is really pharmaceutical grade? Some manufacturers claim their product is pharmaceutical grade because it is manufactured in an FDA certified facility. Others base the claim on the purity of the oil. Because there’s no industry standard, in most cases you have to take their word for it.
Tip #2. Determine the supplement’s DHA/EPA amount per serving size
Look for the DHA/EPA amount on the EPA supplement label. As previously stated, DHA and EPA are the two main long-chain dietary omega-3 fatty acids – both are found in fish and fish oil supplements.
The better DHA supplement should contain approximately 1 gram (900 to 1100 mg) total DHA/EPA per serving size daily. Note: Most fish oil supplements contain 2 to four capsules or softgels to comprise a daily serving size.
A minimum recommended concentration of omega 3 fatty acids in a 1 gram daily serving size is as follows:
- DHA 360 mg
- EPA 545 mg
- Five other naturally found fatty acids including ALA 95 mg
By the way, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies intake of up to 3 grams per day of omega-3 fatty acids from fish as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe).
The concentrations of DHA and EPA in fish oil supplements currently on the market vary by as much as ten fold—from just 8% to 79% per capsule according to online industry watchdog, Consumer Lab. Concentration depends on the source of the omega 3s, how the oil is processed, and the amounts of other ingredients included in the DHA supplement.
The best fish oil supplements will contain a full spectrum of seven naturally occurring omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, alpha-linolenic (ALA), docosapentaenoic, stearidonic, eicosatetraenoic and heneicosapentaenoic acids.
Tip #3. Multistep molecular distillation of the DHA supplement
Look for multistep molecular distillation on the pharmaceutical grade DHA supplement label. Triple molecular distillation is another acceptable term (a "one-up" from double distillation).
Processing of the pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement is perhaps its ultimate test. The best fish oil brands are pharmaceutical grade (stated on the label) and have been purified by three or multiple steps to remove contaminants.
Molecularly distilled fish oils are considered to be the purest and safest, because this process removes nearly all of the unhealthy contaminants and toxins from the fish oil.
One manufacturer has advertised that it produces the world’s finest pharmaceutical grade fish oil because their processing method features a proprietary, triple molecular distillation process that concentrates natural beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. This multistep process helps remove impurities and contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins, and PCBs.
Tip #4. Guarantee of purity in writing
Make sure the DHA supplement manufacturer provides a written guarantee of purity.
Most companies honor a money back guarantee, but purity is the underlying concern with all fish oil supplements, even those who claim to be “pharmaceutical grade”.
In addition to a money-back guarantee, does the manufacturer put into writing a 100% guarantee that the ingredients listed on the label are in the product?; a 100% guarantee of quality-controlled product formulations that ensure product safety, purity, reliability, and product performance?; and a 100% guarantee that they use the finest quality ingredients available?
Click here for an example of the guarantee of purity by the multistep molecular distillation company referenced above.
Buyer beware: Loose regulation by the FDA of the dietary supplement industry contributes to the possibility of substandard products on the market.
Tip #5. Clinical studies by the manufacturer
This is the clincher. What evidence does the pharmaceutical grade DHA supplement manufacturer provide that it participates in clinical studies on its product(s)? Ask them. Call or email the manufacturer and ask them.
Clinical studies are not required by dietary supplement manufacturers. Few companies go to the expense to do so because they aren’t required to. However, one manufacturer has repeatedly done so voluntarily with over 135 scientific papers authored, 100 of which published in peer-reviewed medical journals. They walk the walk to prove the effectiveness of their own products. They’ve invested over $250 million in exhaustive product research and development, and clinical trials, according to their website.
Founded in 1956, this DHA supplement manufacturer is the #1 natural nutrition company in the U.S.
Recommended pharmaceutical grade DHA supplement
One pharmaceutical grade fish oil DHA supplement scored at the top on each of the five tips.
As mentioned, this supplement features a proprietary, triple multistep molecular distillation process creating the following benefits:
- Temperature and duration controlled processing protects integrity of the finest quality oils from fish.
- Minimizes thermal heat degradation.
- Low temperature distillation process helps remove saturated fats, yielding pure, highly concentrated essential omega-3.
- Contaminants often found in fish and fish oils are removed, including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs.
This process produces healthier fish oil by suppressing formation of dangerous trans fats. It’s ultra pure and free of saturated fat and cholesterol.
The product also provides a full spectrum of all seven naturally found omega-3 fatty acids.
Derived from whole, small cold-water fresh fish this DHA supplement meets the utmost standards for quality and purity, according to the manufacturer. It is certified by Friend of the Sea, an international conservation organization, under strict criteria for sustainability, including full traceability in every phase of the process.
One daily serving size of 4 softgels provides 1,206 mg of total omega-3s, including 726 mg of EPA, 480 mg DHA as well as 128 mg of five other naturally found fatty acids (docosapentaenoic, stearidonic, eicosatetraenoic, heneicosapentaenoic, and alpha-linolenic acids). (Note: Label directions read: "Take 2 softgels one or two times daily with meals").
It’s bioavailable, that is, fully absorbed and available at the desired site in the body after consumption. It also boasts low odor, has no aftertaste, is easy to digest and is gluten free.
Based on the evidence presented on this page, we sincerely believe it is the very best DHA supplement. We consider it the finest fish oil supplement found on the market anywhere. In addition to the 180 softgel size, a smaller 60-count size is available.
A side note: my husband and I have personal testimonies on the use of fish oil supplements and other natural products for the control of pain, inflammation, swelling and stiffness for our arthritis conditions. We endorse this product from personal use.
*DHA supplement disclaimer: Health statements on this DHA supplement page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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