Fish oil supplements as good as fresh fish for Omega 3

Fish oil supplements as good as fresh fish for Omega 3

Back in October 2016, when we first heard Dr Michael Mosley would be testing whether fish oil supplements are as good as eating oily fish for his programme ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor’, we wrote an article in our magazine about whether we should eat oily fish or take an Omega 3 fish oil supplement. We tried really hard to get on the TV programme to talk about the subject but we didn’t manage it. Next time!

We were absolutely delighted when we watched the show on the 15th February 2017 (which you may be able to find on iPlayer if you didn’t see it) as it confirmed everything we already know and believe in.

“I was really impressed with how quickly eating oily fish or taking the supplements made a difference”. Dr Michael Mosley.

In case you didn’t see it, here’s a summary of what they set out to do and what they discovered:

We all know eating oily fish is good for us. To quote Dr Chris van Tulleken from the show, “people who eat oily fish seem to live a lot longer”. What they wanted to find out was whether fish oil supplements are as good for us as fresh oily fish. They tested several brands and found that one of them contained rancid fish oil, which is unhealthy for many reasons. They also found huge price differences based on what it would cost to get the RDA of Omega 3 EPA and DHA (which is 200 to 450mg combined) for a year. With one brand it would cost £13 to get your year’s worth of recommended Omega 3 and another brand would cost a whopping £304. We imagine they worked it out by multiplying 200mg by 365 days to get 73,000mg. If you’re wondering, it would cost you £38 to get your year’s RDA if you took our Lion Heart liquid.

Dr Chris van Tulleken had some tips for people when looking for a fish oil brand:

Choose one with accreditation. We couldn’t agree more! We are massively into this and are the first UK fish oil brand to have IFOS accreditation. Crucially they check for EPA and DHA levels, rancidity and for the hundreds of toxins and heavy metals that are found in fish. IFOS publish the results on their website and we have each and every batch tested. We’re also the only brand we know of that publishes our own test results, in full, on our website (you can find these in Shop on the product pages).

Check the label for shelf life. Of course! And we would say check the label for the EPA and DHA content, other added ingredients and fillers and the type of gelatin used if it’s a capsule. We only use fish gelatin but most brands use pork or beef.

Store in a cool, dry and dark place. Also agreed. Fish oils oxidise quickly and our liquids should be kept in the fridge. 

Do supplements have the same benefits as fresh fish?

table set for lunch with mackerel and salads

They tested this by selecting three groups of people, with the help of researchers from Liverpool’s John Moores University, to do an eight week trial. One group ate oily fish, one took fish oil supplements and a control group took a dummy pill and ate white fish which is much lower in Omega 3. They tested their Omega 3 blood index at the start and found that most of them were around the 4% mark, which meant they were at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. 

The Omega 3 index is a measure of fats in the blood and the % of which are Omega 3. 8% to 10% puts you in a low risk category of cardiovascular disease and stroke. 4% to 8% puts you in a medium risk category and anything under 4% puts you in a higher risk category. People with a score higher than 6.5% have 90% fewer cardiovascular events than those with a score less than 3%.  A significant difference.

At the end of the eight week trial they found the two groups who ate oily fish and took the fish oil supplements had moved from the high risk category to the low risk, with most ending above the 6.5% mark. Those in the control group showed a slight improvement.

Interestingly, those who took fish oil supplements had a 1% higher score than those who ate oily fish. This could be because levels of EPA and DHA in fish vary, especially in salmon, which has seen its Omega 3 halve in recent years.

"Eating oily fish or taking fish oil supplements makes a significant difference with real health benefits”.  Dr Michael Mosley.

Dr Mosley concluded that he was really impressed with how quickly eating oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement made a difference. He’s a huge fan of getting enough Omega 3 in our diet for all the clear and proven health benefits. And there are way more health benefits than heart health. There are also benefits for our mental health, brain development and brain protection, eye sight, joints, inflammatory diseases, skin and more.

One thing we don’t agree with is the very low RDA of 200 to 450mg per day. As we said in our last article, there is so much clinical research into the benefits of much higher doses. However if you did want to get just 200 to 450mg EPA and DHA combined a day, you could take just one of our teeny Lion Heart capsules at a cost of just 23p a day! We do recommend you follow our guidelines on doses though, especially if you don’t eat any oily fish.

If you'd like to read more about all the amazing health benefits, check out our guide to the benefits of Omega 3 fish oil