Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Fish Oil": $$ and Favorite Brands of Omega-3 Supplements

Over the years, many of us parents have investigated different brands of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for purity and palatability. How much EPA and/or DHA is needed for the type of symptoms our child has also been an issue. Some health care providers say GLA is important as well for some individuals who might have a problem converting. We've also come up with ideas about affordability. Here are our "secrets."

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.

Finances:

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.

Brands:
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!
This next one (OmegaBrite) is highest in EPA and has been proven in multiple studies (including double-blind placebo-controlled clinical studies) to help mood (such as bipolar) and psychotic disorders. Great for depression. As such, it is the only brand which some psychiatrists would "prescribe" (as required for tax-deductions). However, so little DHA may not be best for long-term use. Our children need to grow and RE-grow brain which may need higher DHA....
A less expensive version with an EPA:DHA ratio similar to OmegaBrite's is:
This next one is formulated by the non-profit Life Extension Foundation (LEF) and has some unique anti-oxidants included. The pills, however, are quite large and might be better suited for teens and adults.
Another highly touted omega-3 fatty acids supplement:
And of course, there is the presciption-required formulation which has the advantage for some of being covered by some medical insurance prescription plans including, for some people, Medicaid.
  • Lovaza (Just over a 1:1 EPA:DHA ratio)

Krill Oil
 
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.
Here is more about what Krill has that is reputed to benefit us: 
  • 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.

Vegetarian / Vegan "Fish Oil"

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.

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Property of www.ItsNotMental.com
Last Updated:
6 December 2011

12 comments:

Niki said...

Hi Jeanie,

I was just discussing this with hubby and he mentions how the fishy taste eventually takes over. Does this really work, taking with antioxidants for killing after taste? Beyond that, the antioxidants are going to be a good thing (obviously).

Also, I tried to "fish" (heehee) around for pricing and was unable to find anything. How much do these run?

(btw, I haven't been able to access our "usual" discussion forum, I put an email in to the szadmin)

Jeanie said...

One reason these brands are "winners" are for their highly purified quality which includes a less fishy aftertaste (or in some cases people report, none at all).

One tip to avoid a fishy after taste even with these brands is to take them after eating--never on an empty or nearly empty stomach.

Another tip I was given that helped some people was to take them at night after supper.

The antioxidants are to prevent the oxidation of the fatty acids. This in turn may prevent a fishy, metallic, or burnt taste which can come from the fats forming hydroperoxides. The danger of that is hydroperoxides can actually be harmful to our health.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble anti-oxidant which is frequently added to the fish oils to not only make it healthier for us, but to also avoid rancidity. However, it is not the only substance that can be used.

Now, you may wonder... well, couldn't taking more fish oil then actually increase oxidative stress in our bodies?

This actually was researched by our government. And the answer was no. Somehow, it protects against oxidants and oxidative stress (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10905544?dopt=Abstract ) which may be why it helps reduce inflammation and reduces cardiovascular risk.

Still, it sounds like it would behoove us to take antioxidants with it.

For my Vitamin E, I especially like Gamma E Tocopherol with Sesame Lignans which has mixed Tocopherols. However, many cannot use it since it has peanuts and soy.

For pricing of the fish oils, I have some links to brands. For those that cannot be purchased directly from the company, price varies by store.

The caution is that one brand may need 4 capsules to equal 1 Gram while another may have 1 Gram in just 1 or 2 capsules. So look not only at price and number of capsules, but how many capsules you need to take per gram.

OmegaBrite which is the only brand I know of that has gone through double-blind placebo controlled clinical studies for its use in bipolar disorder, is expensive. But, it is well-tested. It is about $22/60 capsules. 3 capsules = 1Gram. If a person is taking 2 Grams per day (6 capsules), that's $22 every 10 days or $66/month! For some people, that is too much. For others, it is less than they spend on their Cappuccinos.

One doctor I know of who once only would "prescribe" OmegaBrite now accepts his Medicaid patients taking the prescription fish oil--Lovaza.

So, all I can say is to buy what matches your, or your child's, needs.

Heather said...

You forgot one in that list. I actually have been researching the most popular brands out there and have found that most of them contain anywhere from 180-250 MG of DHA..while EPA is extremely high. The key to a great supplement is finding one with high levels of DHA since too much EPA has been linked to various side effects such as the thinning of blood. Neurovi Omega 3 deserves a spot right up there.. I even prefer it over Nordic Naturals because of it's high DHA content. One capsule contains 340 mg of DHA with only about 32 mg of EPA. I have never found any supplement that comes close...plus it's sold for a great price and you even get a discount of about 12% if you use their code "gift of health" when you buy through their website.

I converted to them and will never go back!

Thanks Jeanie :D

Jeanie said...

Heather,
Thank you for your comment about Neurovi Omega 3. My list is from years of parents of children having symptoms of bipolar, schizoaffective and severe depression (a few with Tourette syndrome, OCD, etc.)

As time goes by, I've become aware that there is no "one size fits all" even for the beneficial ratio of DHA:EPA. It may depend on whether the child is more prone to mania or to depression.

And I have not even touched on Krill Oil, which more and more parents are saying is helpful for their teen girls with PMS.

-Jeanie

bobby said...

my favorite is actually natural factors rx factors omega 3 fish oil, I'm surprised you didn't put that one up. that one is outstanding in terms of the amount of DHA and EPA, but also it is made in Canada so you can pretty much trust that it's made well.

Jeanie said...

Thank you bobby. I see it has a 2:1 EPA/DHA ratio which beats out some of the others (like prscription Lovaza) for the purpose of alleviating some psychiatric symptoms.

The only reason it was not mentioned in the above list is that I got the list from compiling years of what parents parents have been saying they buy.

natural factors rx factors omega 3 fish oil had not been mentioned.

I'd love to hear more. You can e-mail me directly (Jeanie@ItsNotMental.com)and tell me what types of symptoms it helps alleviate, why you like it besides knowing it is pure. Is there no fish-burp taste afer you consume it? Are the pills small -- easy for kids to swallow or just the older kids?

I do add to this list as others recommend good quality products... so stick around...

Fish Oil said...

I have been taking a vitamin supplement from Top Form Nutrition that contains Borage Seed oil, Flax Seed oil and Fish oil. It seems to work very well, i can feel an increase in energy.

Also i feel like im a little happier and in a better mood more often since taking it. Anyone else had similar results taking a flax or fish oil supplement ?
http://www.mytopform.com/essential-fatty-acids.html

HealthFirst said...

My favorite brand is Nordic Naturals just for their committment to quality. Talk about passion for quality, we love this so much that I am now an authorized retailer and actively reaching out to moms across USA. My goal is to help others realize the benefits of high quality fish oils.

Sasha said...

Great list you have here. I would like to add that krill oil is my choice of omega-3 source. Specifically, Dr. Mercola's brand http://krilloil.mercola.com/krill-oil.html. As you mentioned, it has no after taste and a bit more expensive. But if you weigh the pros and cons I'm sure money won't be an issue. As for sustainability, I've read that krill is the largest biomass in the world and is renewable.

Jeanie said...

Sasha,
I did not start a list for Krill oil because it has not been clinically tested for mood disorders. However, I agree that it is a wonderful source, and, in fact, I myself use Krill oil from Mercola. However... It has only a small amount of DHA & EPA in the capsules, but it is at a 3:1 ratio of EPA to DHA.

But at just 50mg EPA per capsule, I cannot say whether the other constituents of Krill make up for that and will work as well.

We'll need some links to some peer-reviewed published research on this topic.

Lígia said...

I like the Natural Factors RxOmega-3, recommended by Dr. Michael Murray. This Omega 3 is great! I always buy it at iHerb.com. You can use my coupon code NAK992 to get $5 off your first purchase + free shipping for orders over $20 + free samples. They ship worldwide.

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