EPA Supplement Guide --
How to Find the Best Fish Oil
for Inflammatory Arthritis, Heart Health
Find the best EPA supplement by following five easy tips. Not all fish oil is the same quality. (Surprise: not even those labeled “pharmaceutical grade” are the best, (but one may be). EPA and DHA are omega 3's found in fish oil. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 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 support intake of recommended amounts of EPA and DHA by eating fish or taking 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. Also to slow the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques ("hardening of the arteries"), and lower blood pressure slightly. Recent evidence in a U.S. Government report reveals how difficult it is to optimize EPA/DHA consumption from diet alone.
Dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids include fish oil and certain plant nut oils. Fish oil contains both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), while some nuts (English walnuts) and vegetable oils (canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, olive) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
The health benefits of EPA and DHA are the best known of the seven omega-3 fatty acids. The best source of EPA and DHA is fish oil. Over 4,500 research studies on omega 3s effects on overall health have been conducted in the last 25 years.
Whether for heart health or inflammatory arthritis improvement, the following five tips will help you make an informed choice for the best EPA supplement (our recommendation appears in the “but one may be” link in first paragraph above, and after the Tip #5 paragraph below):
- Pharmaceutical grade
- EPA/DHA amount per serving size
- Multistep molecular distillation
- Guarantee of purity in writing
- Record of clinical studies by the manufacturer
See detailed information on each tip in the following sections.
Tip #1. The EPA supplement should have “pharmaceutical grade” on its label
Look for pharmaceutical grade fish oil on the label.
An EPA 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.” However, as a dietary supplement, “pharmaceutical grade” is simply the newest marketing generation for certain fish oil products. There are no governmental 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. Foods are not as rigidly enforced compared to drugs. 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 EPA (fish oil) supplements.
As a consumer, how can you determine if a fish oil product 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 EPA/DHA amount per serving size
Look for the EPA/DHA amount on the EPA supplement label. EPA and DHA are the two main long-chain dietary omega-3 fatty acids – both are found in fish and fish oil supplements.
When comparing fish oil supplements, the better should contain approximately 1 gram (900 to 1100 mg) total EPA/DHA per serving size daily. Note: Most fish oil supplements contain 2 to 4 capsules or softgels to comprise a daily serving size.
A minimum recommended concentration of omega 3 fatty acids in a 1 gram+ (1200 mg) daily serving size is as follows:
- Omega-3 667
- EPA 363 mg
- DHA 240 mg
- Five other naturally found fatty acids including ALA 65 mg
By the way, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies intake of up to 3 grams (3000 mg)per day of omega-3 fatty acids from fish as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe).
The concentrations of EPA and DHA 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 EPA supplement.
The best fish oil supplements will contain a full spectrum of seven naturally occurring omega 3 fatty acids, including EPA. DHA, alpha-linolenic (ALA), docosapentaenoic, stearidonic, eicosatetraenoic and heneicosapentaenoic acids.
Tip #3. Multistep molecular distillation of the EPA supplement
Look for multistep molecular distillation on the pharmaceutical grade EPA supplement label.
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 considers 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 that the EPA 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: Flimsy regulation of the dietary supplement industry by the FDA contributes to the possibility of substandard products on the market.
Tip #5. Clinical studies by the EPA supplement manufacturer
Clinical studies -- this is the clincher. What evidence does the pharmaceutical grade EPA 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 mandatory by dietary supplement manufacturers. Few companies go to the expense to do so because they aren’t required to.
One manufacturer has repeatedly done so voluntarily with over 100 scientific papers authored and 90 published in peer-reviewed medical journals. They guarantee 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 EPA supplement manufacturer is a recognized leader in the natural nutrition industry.
Recommended pharmaceutical grade EPA supplement
One pharmaceutical grade fish oil EPA supplement, Omega Guard by Shaklee Corporation, scored at the top on each of the five tips.
This supplement features a proprietary, triple multistep molecular distillation process with the following benefits:
- Temperature and duration controlled processing protects integrity of the finest quality fish oils.
- 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, fresh fish this EPA 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 2 softgels provides 1,200 mg of total omega-3s, including 363 mg of EPA, 240 mg DHA and 65 mg of five other naturally found fatty acids (docosapentaenoic, stearidonic, eicosatetraenoic, heneicosapentaenoic, and alpha-linolenic acids). Note: Label directions say "Take 2 softgels one or two times daily with meals." Taking 4 softgels doubles each total listed above for 2.
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 EPA supplement. We consider its 180 softgel size the finest fish oil supplement found on the market anywhere. That's a 90 day supply when taking two softgels daily, or a 45-day supply when taking four. It's also available in a smaller 60-softgel size, which is a 30 day supply if taking only two per day.
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. For this reason, we take four, sometimes more, softgels daily. We endorse this product from personal use.
*EPA supplement disclaimer: Health statements on this EPA 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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