Learn which source of omega-3s I feel is best for getting the DHA omega-3s your heart needs.
With so many omega-3 supplements out there, I’m often asked which is the best source of omega-3s—fish, krill, or calamari oil? At the beginning of my career, I was partial to fish oil. That’s because it could deliver a concentrated source of omega-3s—one that’s far greater than you could get from eating fish.
But the newest research shows it’s not enough to just get omega-3s—you need the right type of omega-3s. There are two types of omega-3s that play major roles in good health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The latest studies show that DHA omega-3s are the most important for your heart, brain, and eyes.
Yet, the average American gets only about 120 mg of DHA per day. In other countries, like Japan, the average DHA intake is 600 mg per day—which researchers theorize helps contribute to the good heart health experienced by people in Japan.
Get more of Dr. Sinatra's advice on Omega-3s
Here are Some of the Many DHA Omega-3 Benefits
- Blood Pressure Support: One study shows DHA fats have a more profound effect on normal blood pressure levels than EPA fats.1
- Arterial Health: In a study of postmenopausal women, those with the highest levels of DHA had better coronary artery health.2
- Circulation: In research, DHA did a better job than EPA in improving vasodilation and endothelial function.3
- Mental Processing: In a nine-year study, DHA was correlated with better brain function and cognitive health.4
- Eye Support: Your eyes need DHA, too. It makes up 30% to 40% of the fatty acids found in the photoreceptors in your eyes, so DHA is critical to your eye health. Plus, research shows omega-3 fatty acids help with natural tear production, keeping your eyes moist and hydrated.5
Yet As Essential as DHA Omega-3s Are for Good Health, Your Body Can’t Manufacture It
All of the cells in your body require omega-3s—they’re necessary for the structure of your cell membranes. Omega-3s are especially concentrated in the cells of your brain and eyes. Plus, there are several eicosanoids that come from omega-3s that help support a normal inflammatory response—and as you know, healthy inflammation is critical for your heart and overall health.
To get DHA omega-3s, it’s important to supplement with it directly. That’s because while your body can easily convert DHA to EPA, it has great difficulty converting EPA to DHA.6 Plus, the ability of the body to convert plant based omega-3s (ALA) into EPA and then DHA is very low.
What is the Best Source of DHA Omega-3s?
With any omega-3 supplement, you want to check the label to see how much DHA and EPA you’re getting. The amount of DHA vs. EPA omega-3s in a supplement is dependent on the source of the omega-3s. In general, fish oil contains twice as much EPA as DHA. Krill oil supplements also tend to contain far more EPA than DHA. There are some algae sourced omega-3 supplements that are high in DHA omega-3s. Plus, there are some marine based sources of omega-3s, such as squid oil, that contain higher amounts of DHA than EPA.
You May Also Be Interested In
- Foods that Can Deplete Omega-3s—Are You Eating These?
- Why Fish Oil Supplements Can Cause “Fishy Burps”
- 1 Mori TA et al. Hypertension 1999;34(2):253-60.
- 2 Erkkila A et al. J Lipid Res 2006;47:2814-9.
- 3 Mori TA et al. Circulation 2000;102(11):1264-9.
- 4 Schaefer EJ et al. Arch Neurol 2006;63:1545-50.
- 5 Miljanovic B et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2005 Oct;82(4):887-93.
- 6 Linda M Arterburn et. al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jun;83(6 Suppl):1467S-1476S.