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Best Fish Oil Supplements & Brands: Rankings By Value

Fish oil is among the most popular supplements in the United States and the competition remains fierce among supplement companies in attempt to get sales. Many fish oil companies attempt to trick consumers into buying their product by making claims about the total amount of fish oil for your money. Other companies may dilute their product, put out a low quality product, and may even be selling you contaminated fish oil.

If you are taking a fish oil supplement, it is highly important that you do your diligence as a consumer to make sure you are putting something safe and healthy into your body. Nobody wants to take a product that is loaded with heavy metals, toxins, and has oxidized. The reality is that your average consumer simply either: goes for the lowest-priced option, purchases the fish oil from the most convenient place (e.g. a drug store), and/or goes with the most favorably reviewed product on Amazon.

The Best Fish Oil Supplements and Brands

If you search Amazon for “fish oil” you’ll see over 60K results – sorting through that many products would not only be a waste of time, but ridiculous. While some people may already know how to pick out a quality fish oil supplement and/or know of the highest quality brands, many people remain clueless. This article is an attempt to help guide people in the right direction when purchasing a fish oil supplement.

Problems with Fish Oil Supplements

There are a few common problems associated with consumers when it comes to fish oil supplements. The first is that they assume that a brand name they’ve trusted with other supplements can be trusted with fish oil. The second is that they may not even realize they’ve been tricked by crafty marketing. Thirdly, they may not be aware that the product they’ve purchased has already expired.

  1. Brand name doesn’t equal quality: You may typically buy all of your supplements from one company and trust that they do a good job. The problem with this approach when it comes to fish oil is that fish oil is susceptible to toxins and rancidity. You should always make sure that the brand has been independently tested for purity (by the IFOS) before you even consider it for supplementation.
  2. Deceptive marketing: There is considerable deception within the fish oil supplement business. A company may claim that you’re getting way more fish oil for your money in comparison to another company. The problem is that: the fish oil may not be free of toxins and the fish oil may never have been independently tested to verify its ingredients. Additionally, the omega-3 content may be extremely low, despite a high content of “fish oil” for your money.
  3. Expired or rancid fish oils: While some of the fish oil supplements you purchase from the store may be from a quality source, many aren’t. A majority of consumers simply go into a drug store or grocery store and get whatever fish oil is available. The problem with this approach is that the stuff they’re getting could already be rancid (from sitting on the shelf) and/or may have expired.

Finding the Best Fish Oil Supplement… Quality Trumps All

If there’s any takeaway that you remember from reading this article, it should be that “quality” trumps every other factor when it comes to fish oil. If you aren’t getting a “quality” product, you’d be better off not getting one at all. In fact, there is significant risk associated with taking a fish oil supplement from a poor-quality or untrustworthy source.

1. Quality

There’s not a single more important variable when it comes to purchasing fish oil than quality. When you consider purchasing a fish oil supplement, it is imperative that you place a high emphasis on quality and do not sacrifice the quality for some random brand just because it’s cheaper. To make sure you’re getting a quality product, you’ll want to make sure that the product you’re considering for purchase has been independently lab tested by the IFOS.

IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards)

The IFOS is a program responsible for testing numerous aspects of your fish oil supplements. It is a third-party company and does not sell, promote, or endorse certain products (or brands) over others. Therefore the goal is to remain unbiased in their critiques of fish oil supplement companies.

  • Testing: They test fish oil directly based on a specific batch.
  • Evaluation: They evaluate the fish oil supplements for omega-3 contents, contamination, and stability against very strict criteria.
  • Publishing: They publish the test results for specific brands for free on their website. Therefore if you have a certain question about a brand, you can look it up on their site.

Other testing agencies: In addition to the IFOS, there are a couple of other companies that may provide some advice that you can follow in regards to choosing a fish oil. These include: ConsumerLab.com as well as Labdoor.com. It is unknown as to whether their particular reports may be subject to a degree of bias. That said, they may help you in your search to find a quality product.

By making sure your fish oil has been independently tested, you’ll know whether:

  • Omega-3 content is consistent with the label
  • Passes Oxidation standards
  • Passes PCB, PCDD/F standards
  • Passes Heavy Metal standards
  • Passes IFOS testing categories

It is very important to consider the expiration date as well as storage of the fish oil when you’re considering a purchase. Fish oil needs to be kept away from light and heat, if not they can turn rancid. The way you’ll know you’ve purchased rancid fish oil is based on both smell and taste. The smell will be a pungent “fishy” odor and the taste will be nasty. If you’re buying fish oil from a place that doesn’t even store it properly, you’re risking your health.

2. Omega-3 fatty acids

Assuming you’ve done your homework and determined some quality brands, the next step is to look for omega-3 fatty acid contents per serving. Many supplement companies are misleading in that they’ll print on the bottle that you’re getting this much “X” more fish oil than other brands. The goal isn’t to get as much fish oil as possible, the goal is to optimize the omega-3 fatty acids per serving – notably DHA and EPA.

Nearly all of the fish oil benefits are a direct result of the omega-3 content. Just because you’re getting a lot of “oil” doesn’t mean you’re getting a sufficient concentration of omega-3s.

3. Cost

The other element that you should consider when buying a fish oil supplement is the cost. Cost shouldn’t be taken into consideration until you’ve first narrowed down your search to quality brands and assessed omega-3 fatty acid content per serving. Once you’ve done your research, then you can start comparing “cost.”

Keep in mind that the best suppliers are not always the cheapest, but you can do some things to save yourself money. Always calculate the price per dosage of omega-3 fatty acids and determine which company is giving you the greatest value for your dollar.

List of Best Fish Oil Supplements/Brands

Below is a list in randomized order of the best fish oil supplement brands on the market. These are some products that are worth purchasing if you want to make sure you’re getting 5-Star IFOS quality. These have been tested for: purity, heavy metals, accuracy of labeling (specifically DHA and EPA), and oxidation (and stability).

  • Barlean’s
  • Carlson Laboratories Inc.
  • DaVinci Laboratories
  • Life Extension Inc.
  • Nordic Naturals
  • NutriGold
  • PurePharma
  • Wiley’s Finest

Note: There are considerably more IFOS 5-star companies than the ones I listed above. If you want to check them out, be sure to follow the link listed below. Keep in mind when looking at IFOS ratings, make sure that the particular brand you’re looking for hasn’t expired. IFOS conducts annual fish oil reviews. Many companies received favorable IFOS ratings in the past, but have not been subject to current testing; therefore quality cannot be guaranteed.

  • Source: http://www.nutrasource.ca/ifos/consumer-reports/default.aspx

Fish Oil Rankings (Based on Value)

Below I’ve taken the time to calculate the amount of omega-3 fatty acids that you get per serving based on the cost. This was conducted only for companies that have been given 5-star quality ratings by the IFOS. It’s not even worth mentioning other companies due to the fact that the products should be regarded as unknown quality.  Note that the amount of omega-3 fatty acids listed below is the total per serving.

1. NutriGold Triple Strength Omega-3 Gold

  • Omega-3 fatty acid total: 1000 mg
    • EPA: 750 mg
    • DHA: 250 mg
  • Servings: 180
  • Fish type: Whitefish
  • Price (Amazon): $37

Value: $0.20 per gram of omega-3s

2. Carlson Labs Elite Omega-3 Gems

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 700 mg
    • EPA: 400 mg
    • DHA: 300 mg
  • Servings: 120
  • Fish type: Anchovy, Sardine, Mackerel
  • Price: $18

Value: $0.21 per gram of omega-3s

3. Carlson The Very Finest Fish Oil

  • Omega-3 fatty acid total: 1300 mg
    • EPA: 800 mg
    • DHA: 500 mg
  • Servings: 100
  • Fish type: Anchovy, Sardine, Mackerel
  • Price (Amazon): $35.29

Value: $0.27 per gram of omega-3s

4. Barlean’s Fresh Catch Fish Oil

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 600 mg
    • EPA: 370 mg
    • DHA: 230 mg
  • Servings: 125
  • Fish type: Anchovy, Sardine, Mackerel
  • Price: $22

Value: $0.29 per gram of omega-3s

5. Life Extension Super Omega-3s

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 1200 mg
    • EPA: 700 mg
    • DHA: 500 mg
  • Servings: 60
  • Fish type: Anchovy / Mackerel
  • Price: $24

Value: $0.33 per gram of omega-3s

6. Davinci Labs Omega-3 1000

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 500 mg
    • EPA: 300 mg
    • DHA: 200 mg
  • Servings: 90
  • Fish type: Salmon, Sardines, Halibut
  • Price: $17

Value: $0.37 per gram of omega-3s

7. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 1100 mg
    • EPA: 650 mg
    • DHA: 450 mg
  • Servings: 90
  • Fish type: Anchovies / Sardines
  • Price: $50

Value: $0.50 per gram of omega-3s

8. PurePharma O3 Ultra

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 1750 mg
    • EPA: 1250 mg
    • DHA: 500 mg
  • Servings: 40
  • Fish type: Anchovy / Sardines
  • Price: $37

Value: $0.52 per gram of omega-3s

9. Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil Peak EPA

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 1000 mg
    • EPA: 750 mg
    • DHA: 250 mg
  • Servings: 60
  • Fish type: Alaskan Pollock
  • Price: $40

Value: $0.66 per gram of omega-3s

Which brand should you pick?

You don’t need to choose a fish oil supplement based on cost per serving of omega-3s alone. You may have a preference for a certain company, prefer a certain flavoring of fish oil, format of fish oil, or you may respond better to a specific type of fish from which the oil was extracted. I haven’t tried all of the brands listed above, but do take Carlson’s Very Finest Fish Oil – it’s lemon flavored and in liquid format.  I also really like the product line by PurePharma and may try that next.

As of now the fish oil I take is ranked third on the list above and I really like the product.  Keep in mind that just because I like a particular brand doesn’t mean it’s the best, there are plenty of solid options.  As you can see, the “Wiley’s Finest” brand is the most expensive per gram of omega-3s, but they are also extracting the oil from wild Alaskan Pollock which some would argue may be a superior source. Since all of the brands have been tested for quality, it’s up to you to decide which one you’d like to try.

Experimentation with Fish Oil Supplements

If you are new to fish oil supplementation, you may want to start with a brand listed above and determine whether you notice any difference. Keep in mind that you may need some time to experiment with different ratios of EPA to DHA, dosages, formats, and fish types. It can take awhile to figure out what works for you.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (DHA/EPA): If you are taking fish oil for depression, most research recommends having a greater amount of EPA compared to DHA per serving. Research suggests that you’ll want at least 60% of the omega-3 contents to be EPA if you’re trying to improve your mood. That said, if you find yourself not responding well to EPA-weighted fish oil, you could try a more balanced mix and/or even a DHA-weighted brand.
  • Dosage: Some people like taking a very small amount of fish oil to maintain their general health, while others need to take considerably more to target a certain medical condition. If you’re targeting a medical condition, talk to a professional about potential interactions with other medications and/or dosing recommendations. It can take awhile to experiment and find the optimal dose for you.
  • Format: There are two classic formats of taking fish oil: soft gels and liquid. Those who would rather not measure out a liquid amount each day may prefer to swallow soft gels instead. A majority of omega-3 fish oil supplements are manufactured in “soft gel” format. I have experience taking both and have found the liquid to be easier to take. Some suggest that liquid formats provide superior efficacy as well, but they are also subject to quicker oxidation.
  • Type of fish: Some would argue that the type of fish the omega-3s are extracted from doesn’t really matter. Others would suggest that certain types of fish are of higher quality and the oils are absorbed better. You may want to carefully examine the type of fish utilized in the product that you purchase if you think that it makes a difference in the supplement’s efficacy.
  • Brand: Some people notice differing effects based on the “brand” taken. While these differences in effect are likely due to contents of omega-3s per dose as well as ratios of EPA to DHA, they may also be due to a specific type of fish utilized and the ingredients infused within the soft gels.

Note: It should also be mentioned that some people don’t get any benefit from fish oil supplementation and may not really need one.

Why are you taking fish oil?

There are a variety of reasons why people take fish oil supplements including: to reduce high triglycerides and improve cardiovascular health. There are other investigational uses such as for the treatment of mood disorders. It is also believed that increasing omega-3 fatty acids in our diet is beneficial for both our brain and our body.

If you are taking a fish oil supplement, feel free to post a comment sharing what type you’re taking. Have you noticed any benefit from a particular brand or dosage in comparison to others? Be sure to share your experience with fish oil supplementation in the comments section below. Also mention any other IFOS 5-star fish oil manufacturers that you think deserve some recognition.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Amy February 18, 2017, 12:58 am

    My cousin, who is an oncologist, recommends 2 brands Metagenics/OmegaGenics and Nordic Naturals. He gave some to our other cousin who had extremely high cholesterol 500. After 3 months his cholesterol was down to 50. True story.

  • Suzie P October 30, 2016, 5:44 pm

    I take Omega Via… a few years ago they were listed as superior. But this stuff confuses me and I am not sure now. Care to comment? Please and thank you!

  • Margaret Slipko October 3, 2016, 5:45 pm

    What about cod liver oil? I am very interested in this type of oil, but have a hard time to find the company that produce high quality. Two on the market Rosita and Green pasture? Fermented one proclaim that are the best, but the information are so misleading. I am very confused any advice? Thank you.

  • Miguel September 29, 2016, 1:15 am

    Very enlightening article about the subject. Actually I’m using Omega Brite soft gels. They work for me.

  • Amanda September 15, 2016, 12:04 am

    Thank you for a great article on fish oils! Thanks for all the research… it helped me decide on a brand to try. Amanda

  • Neal July 5, 2016, 3:58 pm

    I used to use omega 3 fish oil from a New Zealand company called Xtend Life which I consider the best, but is fairly costly. They meet all criterias set out in this article with the exception of being a member of G.O.E.D and HAACP. They don’t use IFOS. The reason I switched is because I needed, and found another brand that met the same criterias while being more cost effective.

    Based upon technical information I received during email exchanges with this brand, I was satisfied. It’s NutriGold, the same one listed at the top. I use their DHA Gold version as I find it works better for me cause I seem to need more DHA than EPA. So this ratio seems more effective. My mom (late 60s) uses the Triple strength one on this list.

  • Bella August 13, 2015, 2:44 am

    Laboor rankings for some of these products have low grades…not sure about consumer labs…however reviews on several of the products are very good…so it confuses the consumer!

  • Kathy July 5, 2015, 3:56 pm

    I saw very different rankings when I compared IFOS and LabDoor. LabDoor listed several products as having low grades (C or D), but IFOS gave every one of them a 5 star rating. In fact, every single product I looked at on IFOS had a 5 star rating. I’m suspicious.

    • GLOOM August 13, 2015, 10:43 pm

      It is very confusing. Could be due to the specific batches tested by each company, but could also be a result of reporting bias (as a result of financial compensation). I tend to trust IFOS slightly more than these other companies, but acknowledge that it is difficult to determine the most accurate rankings. Perhaps looking for a good composite rating from all evaluation companies would be advised.

      • Debbie December 31, 2017, 5:40 pm

        I just purchased a bottle of Life Extension brand Super Omega 3 (early December 2017) and it is made with Wild Alaskan Pollock. This seems like it would be a high quality product. In the review above, it was stated that Life Extension Super Omega 3 was made with other fish. I am not sure if they changed their product since this review was written or if this was an oversight.

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