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

Posted By Mark Sisson On June 8, 2009 @ 8:38 am In Dear Mark,Diet,Health,Nutrition,Supplements | 54 Comments

You guys had tons of questions following last week’s Definitive Guide to Fish Oils [7]. 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 [8] 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 [9] 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 [10] 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 [11] 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!


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