We have already discussed benefits of omega-3 fatty acids such as reducing arthritic inflammation, depression and cardiovascular risk, improving attention and mood stability in bipolar disorder, preserving brain and vision health, reducing risk of diabetes and schizophrenia, and even re-growing brain tissue lost to degeneration in these illnesses ( Brain Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil) ).
We have also discussed the differences between formulations and how much fish oil is required for healthy people versus those with various special requirements ( Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil): EPA, DHA, and How Much is Enough? ).
We even know that brain health begins before birth. Healthy pregnant and nursing mothers give their babies a boost. We need to provide proper nutrients to our babies. Omega-3 fatty acids boost brain development in our children (IQ, vison, coordination, mood, attention). But we need these nutrients all through life. Some children and adults need more than others.
So now the questions remaining are how to afford this, and which ones should we buy for ourselves and for our children.
We can not say which is the "best" brand, since that is a choice one has to make based on personal requirements, including how much EPA or DHA is required (for instance, research shows that for "schizophrenia/bipolar" spectrum illnesses higher EPA may be what's critical, but for brain growth and damage, DHA may be more important. Others add that GLA is equally important to some individuals). We can give a list of "good" brands, and tell a bit about each.
But first, let's talk about finances.
ONLY buy high quality that has been purified with heavy metals and toxins removed. These have unfortunately been accumulating in fish around the world. High quality brands can be cost $25-$60 per month. That is still cheaper than many medications that don't have the associated health benefits. But even that price can be "too much" for many people to afford. Here are some of our tips.
With a "prescription" from the doctor, food supplements can be tax-exempt. It can be paid for with funds from a pre-tax medical savings plan.
Other people let medical insurance pay for their Omega-3 supplement. One pharmaceutical company (Reliant Pharmaceuticals) had their formulation (Lovaza) FDA-approved as a prescription. Touted for lowering triglyceride (bad fats) levels, it can reduce risk of coronary heart disease. Doctors often prescribe FDA-approved medications for "off-label" use, and can prescribe this medication for other medical conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder.
(Note: Although high EPA was found effective for mood, higher DHA may be recommended for brain injuries. Some people need to try each and see what works best for them as we have anecdotal reports of some ratios actually increasing irritability in some people. Consult your physician.)
Medicaid has approved this "off-label" use of prescription Lovaza for some patients.
Here are some of our "winners". Most brands have now added some antioxidants to their formulations (most now have at the minimum, some vitamin E). Without antioxidants, essential fatty acid supplements can oxidize releasing free radicals in our bodies--something we wish to avoid. One doctor said to think omega-3 fatty acids without antioxidants as having rancid fish in our bellies.
Always remember to check ingredients for anything that may be contraindicated for the specific person taking it, such as sugars, egg, soy, nuts, etc. Also, some conditions may preclude the taking of these supplements, so always check with a doctor.
These first seven are remarkable in that they are taken as a liquid or pudding-like form and taste good!
- OmegaBrite KIDZ (4:1 EPA:DHA)
- Natura Beyond Essential Fats (4:3:2 EPA:DHA:GLA)
- Ascenta OmegaSmooth
- Carlson For Kids Fish Oil - From Norway. Lemon or orange flavors. (1.6:1 EPA:DHA)
- Coromega (1.5:1 EPA:DHA)
- Nordic Naturals (has capsules for older children and adults as well)
- NOW Foods Omega-3 Fish Oil Molecularly Distilled Liquid Lemon (1.5:1 EPA:DHA)
- OmegaBrite (7:1 EPA:DHA)
- Country Life Omega 3 Mood Formula (6.7:1 EPA:DHA)
- Twinlab, Mega Twin EPA Fish Oil (2.6:1 EPA:DHA)
- Lovaza (Just over a 1:1 EPA:DHA ratio)
Last, I must mention Neptune Krill oil which parents are increasingly saying helps with PMS (premenstrual syndrome). One huge benefit is it has naturally occurring "super antioxidants in it such as astaxathin. It reputedly has no fishy aftertaste, and is highly absorbable. It also has some unique and nutritious antioxidants such as astaxanthin. It is more expensive than regular fish oil. The biggest downside, in my opinion, is the negative impact harvesting krill has on the ecosystem.
Read here Dr. Michael Eades' blog: "Why Krill Oil"
- Neptune Krill Oil (NKO™) -- No link. Buy NKO trademark from any reputable source.
- Phosphatidylserine (PS) - supports memory, judgment, reasoning... a building block for your brain's 100 billion nerve cells.
- Choline - major chemical messenger for memory, thoughts, and other brain function. Its bioactive form promotes concentration and builds new cell membrane mass.
- DHA & EPA - mimics natural brain PS for better memory and mental performance.
- Antioxidants - especially the antioxidant standout, astaxanthin, which protects krill oil from rancidity and promotes its benefits to your brain.
The only known potentially equivalent vegetarian source of the same omega-3 fatty acids as those found in fish oil, is algae (read about it here).
Scientists are working on a vegetarian equivalent of "fish-oil" from algae. Here's a good discussion about that from NPR: Getting Brain Food Straight from the Source. They are at least obtaining the DHA from the algae, and some companies are marketing it. Apparently some companies are claiming their vegan equivalent has EPA as well.
Since the vegetarian EPA/DHA supplements are so new, it's too soon for me to comment on "favorite" brands. However, anyone is welcome to comment on a vegetarian brand they use and like.
- Brain Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil): EPA, DHA, and How Much is Enough?
- Inflammation of Body and Brain
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Last Updated: 6 December 2011