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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 08, 2009

Rapid Fire Q&A: Fish Oil Guide Follow-Up

By Mark Sisson
58 Comments

You guys had tons of questions following last week’s Definitive Guide to Fish Oils. Since the back and forth discourse is my favorite part of doing the blog, I’ll see if I can get to all of them. Let me know if I miss anything!

You recommend storing fish oil in the fridge, but how about storing capsules in the freezer? Wouldn’t this be an even better step to take to prevent the oil from oxidizing?

Freezing your fish oil isn’t necessary (the fridge is fine), but it certainly won’t affect the quality in a negative way and I’ve heard that it can reduce those unpleasant fish burps if you have this problem with your brand of fish oils. I guess if you stock up and buy several years’ worth, freezing would be a good idea. Either way, freeze away!

I’m glad you did a primer on fish oil, I’ve been thinking about it lately. But I would have liked info on DHA/EPA ratios and quantities. I have know idea what is a typical or ideal DHA/EPA ratio or how many mg of each I should be taking.

I’d say an ideal DHA/EPA ratio hasn’t been pinned down just yet. I’m not really sure one even exists, to be honest. If you look at the table of DHA/EPA ratios in seafood, you’ll notice that they’re all over the place. Coastal Grok, therefore, wouldn’t have gotten a constant ratio from the real food he was eating. In my capsules, I do a 600mg DHA/900mg EPA ratio, simply because we make EPA from DHA, and I figure giving more of the finished product cuts down on waste in the body. Bottom line: as long as you’re getting a reasonable amount of DHA and EPA, the exact ratio won’t matter too much. I do okay on 600/900, though.

One question I have is this, should one’s intake of supplementary fish oil be adjusted based on the intake of the omega 6 heavy foods or will our bodies just dispose of excess of both once it reaches it’s preferred ratio? And if so is there a “rule of thumb” that would make it easier to get this ratio down?

Definitely. Try to keep a 1:1 ratio between Omega-3s and Omega-6s. A little extra Omega-3 has beneficial effects aside from the ratio stuff, but don’t go crazy with it and start mega-dosing. You don’t want to have super thin blood and bleed everywhere from a little cut.

I echo Drew’s question. Is there a magic ration of grams of Fish Oil to ounces of veggie oil or meat?

Depends on the type of meat or veggie oil. Here’s a list showing the omega ratios of pretty much all of ‘em (per 100g). 100g is about 3.5 ounces. As you can see from the list, you might just want to avoid veggie oils altogether!

I take in about 6.4 grams EPA/DHA of fish oils. Do you think this is bad or overkill? Ive never experienced anything bad (not that I might) and its been close to a year since I upped my dosage.

Are you eating much Omega-6? If yes, keep with it. If not, there’s certainly no harm in lowering your fish oil intake. You might save some money in the process. But hey, if you feel fine…

What is the concentration of DHA/EPA (generally) in say.. Sardines (canned in sardine oil, not olive oil)? I’m just wondering if eating sardines would be “just as good” as fish oil supplements, or would it be too weak to replace them.

A 3.5 ounce serving of canned Atlantic sardine has 500mg DHA and 500mg EPA (and even 500mg ALA, but we don’t do much with that stuff). Sardines are a good source – I like ‘em with horseradish and Dijon mustard, myself.

I eat 100% grass fed Black Angus beef, 0% vegetable oil, (I use coconut and EV olive oil) no processed foods whatsoever, and no sugar at all. I do take Krill oil daily because, well everyone says you need it. But with my diet, do I really need it?What happens if my ratio is 2:1 in favor of Omega 3?

As far as the eicosanoid ratio goes, I’d imagine you’re doing fantastic and don’t really need it. Still, a bit of fish oil does have other benefits, like improved insulin sensitivity and better absorption of protein following workouts – which are nothing to sniff at.

Side Note: On the issue of fish oil vs. krill oil I wrote the following comment in response to a post Tim Ferris wrote awhile back titled “Krill Oil 48x Better Than Fish Oil?” in which he suggests krill oil is superior:

Interesting choice of headline. It’s a bit sensationalist to suggest that krill is “48x” as potent as fish oil. The line you derive that headline from simply suggests that the natural ORAC (antioxidant) capacity of krill is 48x higher than that of fish oil. But no one in their right mind takes either for its antioxidant capacity. For example, when you look at ORAC, the amount of krill Tim takes offers less than 5% of what might be considered the “DV” (or RDA) of antioxidants. We get orders of magnitude more antioxidants from fruits and vegetables (or other supplements). We take krill or fish oil supplements because they are great sources of DHA and EPA. And it that regard, they are virtually identical (subjective reports of diminished PMS symptoms in one study notwithstanding). Furthermore, most fish oil refiners add vitamin E to the oil as an antioxidant to give stability and add shelf-life, so the comparative shelf lives are also similar. I really don’t see one as being “better” than the other…intead, I see two alternative choices, either of which might represent the single best supplement choice you could make if you were only to take one supplement.

I’ve heard that the recommended amount of fish oil you should take is 0.5 grams for every ten lbs you weigh. That means for someone that weighs 170 lbs, they should take 8.5 grams a day. Is this too much?

I haven’t heard that before, and yes, it does sound excessive (unless you’re eating lots of grain fed meat and vegetable oils every day).

Can I get the same benefits from Flax oil? If not, what’s the difference?

You can’t. Some animals can convert the ALA from flax into DHA/EPA, but we just don’t have the machinery for it and most of it gets wasted. Young women have a better conversion rate, but you’d be better off just taking fish oil. Some time back I wrote a post about flax that might interest you.

Is there such a thing as too much fish oil? What if the normal 30:1, omega 6 to omega 3, was potentially reversed? What would the implication of a 1:2, or possibly higher omega 3 ratio be?

Yep. As a few of our other readers pointed out, excess levels of Omega 3 can thin the blood. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, but just be aware of the potential risks. Unfortunately, there’s no magic ceiling on Omega 3 dosage; everyone’s different, and some people can take huge amounts without experiencing bleeding problems. You’ll just have to figure out what’s best for your body (I can just about guarantee a 30:1 Omega 3:Omega 6 ratio is overkill, regardless). Though if you suffer frequent nosebleeds or get into knife fights on a regular basis, you should keep to that 1:1 ratio as best you can.

I hope that answered all your questions. Keep ‘em coming if you have any more!

TAGS:  omega 3s, toxins

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58 Comments on "Rapid Fire Q&A: Fish Oil Guide Follow-Up"

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Vin | NaturalBias.com
7 years 3 months ago

Great info Mark!

I don’t think I’d agree that krill oil is any better than fish oil either, especially 48 times better! In fact, I’ve read that krill oil is more commonly contaminated with pollutants.

Personally, I like getting my share of omega-3 from the food I eat and prefer fish oil over capsules because it at least provides the perception of being less processed. 🙂 There’s also less chance of consuming unwanted ingredients that may be in the capsule.

cindy
cindy
7 years 2 months ago

uh….did you say “less chance of consuming unwanted ingredients that may be in a capsule”????

In case you hadnt heard….MERCURY is rampant in fish. So a capsule that is prepared removing all the mercury and metals is WAY smarter than eating fish. I love fish too….but we will kill ourselves if we eat too much. And very little is currently too much…

Ziltoid
Ziltoid
7 years 3 months ago
I agree. I think the whole Krill oil thing is a scam. Trying to cash in on the money as alot of people are looking into Fish oils as a healthy O3 supplement. I mean besided other benefits from krill oil or what not, just look at the DHA/EPA content. How can it be 48x better if you have fish oil that has the same or more DHA/EPA in it? Or am I wrong? I dont eat much O6 stuff except for meat. I eat grassfed beef less than I do store brought though. Kind of pricey! Thanks for answering… Read more »
Charles
Charles
7 years 3 months ago

I certainly understand the questions about the relative benefits of krill oil, based on what you’ve said above.

At the same time, I’ve recommended krill oil to a couple of friends who were already taking fish oil, and they both saw pretty dramatic improvements in a)cholesterol levels and b)inflammation of the prostate.

Now of course the plural of anecdote ain’t data, but these experiences, and a couple of others, lead me to think there is something else going on with krill oil than is obvious. It may be an absorption issue or something else, for instance.

Adriana G
Adriana G
5 years 9 months ago

“both saw pretty dramatic improvements in a)cholesterol levels and b)inflammation of the prostate.”

Did these friends take krill IN ADDITION to fish oil, or instead of it?

Ellen
Ellen
3 years 24 days ago
In our case, Krill oil worked well by itself. My daughter has been taking Accutane and it raised her cholesterol levels significantly. We did some research and found that Krill oil might help. It did. It brought her cholesterol levels down enough that she could finish the course of medication with great results. (We did, btw, try many alternatives for her acne prior to going that route but unfortunately they didn’t work.) I can’t say Krill worked better than fish oil – we didn’t try fish oil as every time she has tried it in the past she’s been turned… Read more »
Charles
Charles
7 years 3 months ago

And this is a great couple of articles by Stephan at Whole Health Source talking about the requirements for Omega-3s, based on dietary Omega-6 levels.

He really is the go-to source on this stuff, as he is digging more deeply into the data than anyone out there that I’ve been able to find.

http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2009/05/for-those-not-scientifically-inclined.html

TaydaTot
TaydaTot
7 years 3 months ago

Thanks for addressing and answering my questions, and even including my spelling errors too!

Good idea including a follow-up. The extra attention to fish oil definitely serves the needs of your exigent PBers.

Greg at Live Fit
7 years 3 months ago

Thanks for the detailed follow-up. I’ve tried to alter my blood lipid profile by changing my eating habits, and found it to be extremely difficult. This may be helpful.

IDRISCKY
IDRISCKY
7 years 3 months ago

Is thinning blood the only real concern then for a higher Omega 3 ratio, Mark?

Because normally I take around 24 grams per day and I haven’t noticed any bleeding problems at all. In fact I just got a deep paper cut on the top of my finger this morning and hardly bled at all. Just a tiny amount and then stopped after I wiped it off. I do eat mainly grain fed meats though sine they are rather hard to find in my area.

Aaron Blaisdell
7 years 3 months ago
I’ve been taking Green Pastures high-vitamin fermented cod-liver oil (CLO) for the past 6 months, which has replaced the fish-oil capsules I used to take. Like Vin (the first commenter to this post) I enjoy the fact that I can taste the oil which helps monitor whether it’s gone rancid (which is much less likely with fermented oil). I also get a lot of good fat soluble vitamins (especially A and D) from the fermented CLO. And I take 1/2 teaspoon daily of the CLO with a 1/2 teaspoon of high-vitamin butter oil in true Weston Price fashion. Although there… Read more »
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[…] my follow-up post to the Definitive Guide to Fish Oils in which I answer some of your most pressing fish oil […]

Ryan Robitaille
7 years 3 months ago

Thanks for getting my question in the follow-up, Mark.

Vin & Aaron, I agree 100% – you can accidentally take a bad capsule, but you’d be hard pressed to swallow some rancid fish oil straight.

Besides, in a pinch it makes a good thing to take other fat-soluable vitamins and supplements with in lieu of food.

Berto at PricePlow
7 years 3 months ago

I’ve been eating a lot of shrimp lately and this chart confuses me a bit. Does this mean that one medium-sized piece of shrimp contains those EPA/DHA quantities?

Dienna
Dienna
7 years 3 months ago

I am also confused by the table… it appears that FARMED salmon has more EPA/DHA than WILD salmon… how can that be? I have read elsewhere that farmed salmon have a bad omega 6: omega 3 ratio due to what they are fed. Any ideas?

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[…] Fishoil FAQ – Der Blogautor beantwortet die Fragen seiner Leser zum Thema Fischöl. Zuvor hatte er einen eigenen Artikel darüber verfasst. […]

Lauren B
7 years 3 months ago

Great post, Mark! I’ll take my fish oil regularly. It’s just so easy to forget if you’re not in the habit!

I posted some primal coconut cupcakes you might be interested in. Can’t wait to get your book!

CC
CC
7 years 3 months ago

This may have been addressed somewhere on MDA, but I’m having trouble finding info: what about fish allergies? When I got an allergy test as a teenager I was told that I am “slightly allergic” to fish. Never had an issue with it because I rarely eat seafood of any kind. Do you think I’d have a problem taking fish oil supplements? Would some bother me more than others?

Vin | NaturalBias.com
7 years 3 months ago

Food sensitivities are usually based on protein. Because fish oil supplements are refined to only contain fat, food sensitivities are usually not a concern. I wouldn’t chance it with a severe allergy (which is not the same as a sensitivity), but otherwise, you can at least give the supplement a try and pay close attention to any reactions that may occur within the next few days.

Olga
Olga
7 years 3 months ago

Hi Mark:

Regarding krill oil, the benefits over fish oil appear to be due, due to the phospholipid content which makes the omega 3 fatty acids more bioavailable than fish oil. Here is a post from Dr. Eades site discussing krill oil:

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/ketones-and-ketosis/the-brain-trust-program-krill-oil-and-menopause/

Thanks for all the great information.

Olga

Kelly
Kelly
7 years 3 months ago
Don’t want to be the Simon Cowell here, but researcher Patricia Kane and Neil Speight M.D. have run fatty acid tests through Johns Hopkins and found that in fact, a surprising MAJORITY of their patients have omega 3 levels that are waaay too high in ratio to omega 6’s. They admit that this is probably due to the fact that the vast majority of their patients have health problems so have probably overdone it with the fish oil/flax…but have case after case after case that has shown that too much Omega 3’s can do more than just thin the blood… Read more »
Vin - NaturalBias.com
7 years 3 months ago

Hi Kelly, that actually makes a lot of sense, especially considering how widely recommended omega-3 has become. For those of us eating fish and pasture raised meat and avoiding grains and vegetable oils, there’s probably not much need for supplementation, and reducing the need for supplements is more primal. 🙂 I’m a big fan of getting as much nutrition as I can from food rather than supplements.

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago
Kelly & all: Everyone taking omega-3 oils on the advice of everyone advocating pharmacological overdose intake levels of O-3’s will have an IMbalance of O-3 due to ignorance and exclusion of the O-6 that as you now know is even more important than O-3. As for borage the problem lies in the stereospecifity of the triglyceride molecule, Here’s a bit from lipid researcher Paul Beatty who studied with David Horrobin: “The recently deceased, renowned researcher – Dr. David Horrobin showed us the way. He emphasized balance of Omega 6 & 3’s for their synergy and powerful therapeutic affect. He also… Read more »
DC
DC
7 years 3 months ago

I’m a little late here, but hopefully someone is still paying attention to this post.

With all the concerns about mercury and other contaminants in actual fish, how is fish oil safer? Isn’t it derived from the same fish that is (supposedly) dangerous to eat?

Not being cynical, just curious…..

hilarydanette
hilarydanette
4 years 1 month ago

If you choose a reputable fish oil, it will be third-party tested for toxins including heavy metals, dioxins, and PCBs. I use Nordic Naturals, which is third-party tested, although I am sure there are other brands that are just as good.

Ashley
7 years 2 months ago

Yes, I’ve read some articles talking about the mercury contamination in most fish. Does it mean taking too much of it isn’t safe already? Maybe it’s a good thing that I chose krill oil than fish oil.

rich
7 years 1 month ago

can i ask where the info on DHA/EPA ratios come from?

primalfitter
6 years 11 months ago

how do i test to see what my O3:O6 ratio is?

Ramon
Ramon
6 years 7 months ago

What is the optimal serving size for a person (myself) working out hard and wanting to maximize the usage of fish oil AND flax oil?

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[…] Mark Sisson: Q&A follow-up, dosage, etc. […]

janagram
janagram
5 years 10 months ago

I repeatedly had trouble with fish oil…if I took more than one cap (of Sears’ high dose) every other day I would come close to fainting about 90 minutes after ingesting. No one ever knew why….? Every one just said don’t take the fish oil…?

Ashley
5 years 8 months ago

If you have fish burps, the oil is rancid. Prick a pill with a pin, and taste it. You will know if it is rancid. I recently did this with 10+ brands of fish oils. Nordic Naturals is the clear winner.

What I want to know is this – If I don’t have any problems taking fish oil on an empty stomach, is that the best thing to do? Is that how it is best absorbed?

hilarydanette
hilarydanette
4 years 1 month ago

I’m also a huge fan of Nordic Naturals. I’ve never had a problem with them, and have noticed that some skin problems I’ve had have disappeared since I started taking 2 capsules of Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega every day.

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[…] popular natural product among adults was echinacea, followed by ginseng and gingko biloba; in 2007, fish oil had jumped to the top of list with over 38% of adults, followed by glucosamine, echinacea, and […]

Keith
Keith
5 years 7 months ago

This is WAY late, but I just found this article. The Tim Ferriss article referenced here was actually written by Dr. Michael Eades.

Thanks for another great post (years ago…), Mark.

Joellyn
Joellyn
5 years 5 months ago

Weighing in, in case anyone cycles back…they have done some European studies that show Krill oil is specifically indicated for menopausal symptoms and does more than straight fish oil. Anecdotal it may be, but it sure seems that way to me based on my own results.

Johnny B
Johnny B
5 years 4 months ago

Hi Mark. Love your site.

What do you think of Brian Peskin’s work on EFAs and the O6/O3 ratio?

Is there a blood test you can take to test your ratio?

Thanks!

Ian Stubbles
Ian Stubbles
5 years 4 months ago

I have recently started following the primal blueprint and started supplementing with omega 3 fish oil as well. Problem is that I have a history of Ventricular Tachycardia and I have just read a study today that suggests that anyone with a history of arrythmia should avoid fish oils or consult with their doctor before taking it as it may be promote more arrythmias. I know that this wont apply to 99.99% of people who read this but. I’m a bit stuck as to whether there is anything else I can take to balance my omega 3:6 ratios?

Arlene
Arlene
4 years 10 months ago

http://www.ajcn.org/content/70/3/560S.full
You may be interested in this article, which Mark Sisson references in a similar post. There is a section about a third into the article called “Effects of dietary fish oil on ventricular premature complexes” with references to the studies. Hope that helps!

Charlie Frice
Charlie Frice
5 years 3 months ago

Krill is the normal diet for South Pole fish and birds, notably penguins. It is being fished at an alarming rate for human consumption. It seems to me that is one reason for avoiding it

Alex
Alex
5 years 1 month ago

Great info. Anyone have thoughts on maintaining these levels but getting around eating fish due to ethical or just personal reasons?

Toni
Toni
5 years 23 days ago

I think a good ratio of omega 6 omega 3 is 1:3. Here in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj-ZnG3NoZY it mentions that although the perfect ratio is 1:1, it’s almost impossible to attain, and so 1:3 is set as the best possible ratio.

John Pilla
John Pilla
4 years 10 months ago
Dr. barry SEARS, aka the ZONE diet, has been advocating high quality Fish Oil since the 80’s. Long before anyone else had. His research concluded that a high quality fish oil should be a combined 60% EPA/DHA. So, in other words, a 1 Gram (1000 mg) fish oil capsule, should have 600 mg of combined EPA/DHA. . Most high quality fish oil capsules are at the 60% value and most of those are at or near a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA. (400 mg EPA: 200 mg DHA in a 1000 mg FO capsule.) Such as LEF, Natural Factors, Zone, etc… Read more »
Scott
Scott
4 years 8 months ago
I’ve been taking Cod liver oil off and on for a couple of years now, but after doing some research and reading the link for chriskresser.com that was posted it I think I’m going to be stopping for now. I ran out today so think I’ll see how I go without it for a week or 2. I take cod liver oil (seven seas brand in the UK) due to it being a lot cheaper than fish oil (£6 versus carsons fish oil @ £26) Listening to my own body I know I find it hard to take the cod… Read more »
Erin L
Erin L
4 years 8 months ago
I had the same issues with dizziness and actually fainting once about 2 years ago. It was very worrisome as I had just lost about 25 lbs (calorie-cutting and exercise) and I was 32. I went through a barrage of tests and visits to the cardiologist with no real answers. I was basically told to stay hydrated and stand up slowly. Not that helpful! About six months later I went Paleo through a program at my gym and started having the same issues again. The nutrition consultant recommended more fat in my diet. It worked perfectly! Now, whenever I start… Read more »
Charlie Frice
Charlie Frice
4 years 8 months ago

I don’t really know if Krill oil is better than fish oil, but I do know this: animals such as penguins depend on Krill for a food supply. That supply is being depleted by HUMAN activity, making life more difficult for these animals. It seems like if we have a choice, and fish oil is as good, the right thing to do would be to use the fish oil.

Liam
Liam
4 years 5 months ago

“In my capsules, I do a 600mg DHA/900mg EPA ratio, simply because we make EPA from DHA, and I figure giving more of the finished product cuts down on waste in the body. Bottom line: as long as you’re getting a reasonable amount of DHA and EPA, the exact ratio won’t matter too much. I do okay on 600/900, though.”

Don’t we make DHA from EPA? I thought the conversion could go both ways but in general EPA is converted to DHA?

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[…] Fish Oil Guide Follow-Up *Post thoughts to comments […]

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[…] readily. Interestingly (and not by coincidence), women tend to preferentially store the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA – the one that’s so important to the baby’s development during and pregnancy […]

mtnwoman
mtnwoman
4 years 1 month ago
Found this from xtend-life.com: ” but the main component to look at in terms of dosage is the DHA level. This should be high and higher in ratio to the EPA level. This is because the DHA is the ‘building block’ component. The one on which EPA and other components rely to be able to work properly. DHA is able to convert to EPA should EPA be lacking, as it contains 2 additional carbon molecules, but EPA is unable to do the same as it doesn’t contain enough carbon molecules. So take a look at the DHA level, ensure it… Read more »
Sheila
Sheila
4 years 30 days ago

Does krill oil need fish oil to be effective?

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[…] readily. Interestingly (and not by coincidence), women tend to preferentially store the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA – the one that’s so important to the baby’s development during and pregnancy – in their […]

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[…] readily. Interestingly (and not by coincidence), women tend to preferentially store the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA – the one that’s so important to the baby’s development during and pregnancy – in their […]

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[…] provide a nice variety of important nutrients like calcium (if bone in), iron, zinc, iodine, and omega-3s. And if you can get a kid to dig bone-in sardines, you can probably get him to eat […]

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[…] a little, well, fishy. But there are a lot of omega-3s and other nutrients packed into those small, oily little fish, so finding a way to love ‘em is a worthwhile […]

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[…] a little, well, fishy. But there are a lot of omega-3s and other nutrients packed into those small, oily little fish, so finding a way to love ‘em is a worthwhile […]

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[…] other nutrients packed into those small, oily little fish, so finding a way to love ‘em is a worthwhile […]

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