Should you buy liquid fish oil?
You know, the ooey gooey kind you gulp down with a teaspoon (or tablespoon if you’re brave.)
If you were cornered as a child by a parent wielding a teaspoon of cod liver oil, this will bring back traumatic memories.
May be the liquid fish oil tasted nasty and disgusting…but they were onto something.
So why try liquid fish oil now?
After all, we have some very high quality fish oil in pills.
Reasons to buy liquid fish oil
- Tons of Omega-3 per teaspoon. This is the main reason to buy fish oil in liquid form. The strongest and best pharmaceutical grade fish oil pills have about 1000 mg Omega-3 per pill. But liquid fish oil often have a lot more.Here are a few examples:
- OK: Barleans Signature Liquid Fish Oil: 1390 mg per teaspoon
- Good: Carlsons Liquid Fish Oil: 1600 mg per tsp
- Great: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega provides a spectacular 3200 mg Omega-3 per teaspoon
- Clinically effective doses. It is easy to get clinically effective doses with liquid fish oil. If you were taking a regular strength 1000 mg fish oil pill from, say Walmart, you’d need a dozen pills a day to reduce your triglycerides. With liquid fish oil, you can have that clinically proven benefit with just 2 teaspoons!
- Less Frequent Dosing. All the Omega-3 you need in one gulp.
- Cheaper than fish oil pills. Putting fish oil into gelatin capsules is high-tech and expensive. So by avoiding that step with liquid fish oil, you get more Omega-3 per dollar.
Reasons NOT to buy liquid fish oil
And there is really only one major reason not to buy:
- The taste! Oh my goodness!
- Even the best liquid fish oil brands (see above) are traumatizing to gulp down. You can hold your nose all you want, but it goes down like lemon-flavored paint thinner!
- Some brands are MUCH better than others. If you decide to try liquid fish oil, I hope you try one of the proven, high quality brands. Because if you gag on a cheap, low-quality one, your day will be ruined – you’ll be burping up the stuff for hours.
- Short shelf-life. Liquid fish oils spoil quickly and easily.
- Fish oil is very sensitive to heat, moisture, light and air (oxygen).
- Every time you open and close the bottle, you are exposing the sensitive oil to all of the above. This causes rancidity or oxidation.
- It must be made and consumed quickly. Once opened, I strongly advise that you finish the bottle within a month or two.
- Even slightly rancid or oxidized fish oil is harmful to your body.
- Odor & Burping.
- If you are even slightly prone to fishy burps with fish oil pills, liquid fish oil will be much worse. Even with the good quality ones.
- You might not notice (or care!) but those around you may want to know if you’ve been moonlighting at SeaWorld.
Some lucky folks don’t mind the taste and do not have a burping problem. My hat’s off to them.
I’m not one of those lucky people, so I rely on high-potency pharmaceutical grade fish oil pills. Products that have at least 1000 mg of Omega-3 in each pill.
OmegaVia is one such product. Ocean Blue Professional and Minami CardiO3 are a couple of other good brands that also have 1000 mg Omega-3 per pill.
Still, it’s hard to ignore the positives of liquid fish oil.
How to Choose the Right Liquid Fish Oil
When it comes to liquids, you should pay close attention to ‘oxidation by-products.’
Why? Because these by-products are chemical signs that rancidity has begun. Once it’s begun, it cannot be reversed and the odor and taste will quickly worsen.
So what do you look for?
Look for these freshness indicators:
- Peroxide – should be less than 5 meq/kg
- Anisidine – should be less than 20 meq/kg
- Total Oxidation – should be less than 26 meq/kg
- Acid Value – should be less than 3.0 mg KOH/g
These are freshness quality standards set by non-profit consumer and industry organizations.
High levels of these compounds are tell-tale chemical signs that rancidity has set in. If these are high, then you know it’s going to stink.
So how much is too much of these compounds? It’s hard work for an average person to decipher all this.
If you really care about quality, you should demand that all fish oil manufacturers share their ‘certificate of analysis’ with you. If they don’t share this information, there is no way to know what’s in the oil you’re taking.
Move onto other brands that are open and transparent with their customers.
Fortunately, there are 3rd party testing organizations like International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS).
IFOS tests and publishes the certificate of analysis of several brands. A 5-star rating from IFOS is an assured sign of quality. Well, at least it was of high quality when the product was tested. If your liquid fish oil was sitting around on a shelf for a year after its IFOS test, it could be, past its prime.
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega is a liquid fish oil that passes all IFOS tests with flying colors.
Ready to Try Liquid Fish Oil?
Try Nordic Natural Ultimate Omega. (I do not know anyone at Nordic Naturals (surprisingly!) and I am not being compensated for this positive review.) This product always seems to have one of the lowest levels of oxidation by-products. The only negative is the high cost. But expensive health care items are often priceless. 4 oz. Bottle is $41.95
I have tried Barleans Omega Swirls. They are aimed at kids so they are not ghastly tasting. That’s because they’ve emulsified liquid fish oil with a bunch of sweeteners, gums and taster maskers. But the Omega-3 levels are very low – much lower than many fish oil pills. Try it if you simply cannot swallow pills. (Disclosure: I know and like the nice folks at Barleans. Great people!) 8 oz bottle is $13.99
Carlsons Liquid Fish Oil. This is a very popular and relatively good product. It is usually fresh because it is sold in high volumes and it rarely sits around getting rancid. But it is not tested by IFOS. Sometimes Carlsons shares their certificate of analysis. If not, hold your nose and drink away hoping it’s good stuff. 16 oz bottle is about $30, depending on where you buy it.
Dr. Barry Sears’ ZONE OmegaRx is IFOS certified. And the quality of Zone products are usually very high. IFOS certified fish oil products are worth paying a little extra for, after all, you know exactly what you’re getting. Hard to go wrong when you combine Dr. Sears with IFOS, but still, a bottle costs almost $70! If you’re going to spend that much, Nordic Naturals may be a better value.
My first choice, without hesitation, is Nordic Naturals. Zone OmegaRx is second.
|DISCLAIMER: The contents of this blog do not constitute medical advice. This is merely an open discussion of the science behind EPA & DHA Omega-3 and Fish Oil. Please consult your physician for medical advice.|
About the Author: Vin Kutty is OmegaVia’s Scientific Advisor and Chief Blogger. He is a nutritionist, author, and Omega-3 expert with over 20 years of experience. He appreciates but stays away from liquid fish oil to preserve his marriage and social life. Email him.