At Charlotte’s Book, we’re serious about our supplements: you are what you eat, after all. We were surprised to see this recent New York Times video portraying a fish oil market where oxidation causes the quality of fish oil to deteriorate—apparently, New Zealand has a particular problem with sub-par product, with 83% of fish oils on the market below standard.
We decided to check in with two Charlotte’s Book experts—Daniela Turley, MCPP, AHG, a medical herbalist, and Dr. Frank Lipman, who specializes in integrative medicine—and asked them both three questions about fish oil. Their answers here.
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1. The Basics: Is Fish Oil Harmful Or Helpful?
Dr. Frank Lipman says, “I believe that fish oil is helpful. It promotes a stronger immune system, better cardiovascular health, less inflammation, healthier joints, improved vision, a more robust metabolism and healthy weight management. Fish oil has also been shown to improve skin, hair, and nails, as well as cognitive functions like your thinking power, attention, mood and memory.”
“Fish oil can be harmful if not a good quality—if it’s rancid or contains heavy metals,” says Daniela Turley. “It’s always best to come in the form of food, which means eating small fish that are low down the food chain. When I do recommend it as a supplement, in cases of autoimmune disease, for example, I recommend a brand that just makes fish oil. Eskimo Oils or Nordic Naturals are good examples. In studies, these are high quality and low in residue.”
2. What’s Important To Know When Buying Fish Oil?
Says Turley, “See above. Go for a manufacturer that makes fish oil exclusively; I personally only recommend those two brands.”
Lipman echoes the importance of purity: “When shopping for fish oils, do your research. Make sure you choose a good quality fish oil to ensure purity and the removal of heavy metals, pesticides, PCB’s and other contaminants. The Be Well Omega-3 Fish Oils deliver their EPA and DHA in their natural triglyceride forms. Not only do they contain almost double the industry standard concentration of triglyceride-bound omega-3 oils normally found in most formulations, they also contain mixed tocopherols as antioxidants, plus Lipase, a digestive enzyme that helps break down fats for easier digestion and absorption. Both of these ingredients also enhance the molecular stability of the product.”
3. Who Should Take Fish Oil?
“People with with inflammatory-based illnesses,” says Turley, “people who can’t eat fish three times a week. I recommend it in cases of autoimmune disease, e.g. psoriasis or Rheumatoid arthritis, and in people with CV risk factors along with antioxidant herbs to help protect the oil from going rancid once in the body. Please note that the ratio between omega 3:6 is important, and that a lot of the benefits of taking fish oil can be secured by reducing omega 6 intake.”
Lipman takes a more liberal view: “I urge everyone to indulge. They support your body’s ability to prevent chronic diseases and help protect it against inflammation. Fish oil is seriously good stuff, but as with Vitamin D, you can’t make your own omega-3 fatty acids, so you’ve got to get it from outside sources. Fatty fish and fish oil supplements are your best sources.”