EPA DHA Fish Oil

"A few years ago, I developed psoriasis on my foot. My derm gave me a steroid cream which worked well initially but a few months later, the psoriasis came back even worse. I had heard that fish oil was beneficial for inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis. After taking VitaMedica’s Super EPA/DHA Fish Oil supplement for just 2 months, my psoriasis was gone and it’s never come back since. That was over 5 years ago."

D. Cardello

Omega-3s and Health
By now, most of us have heard the message that Americans aren’t getting enough of the health-promoting Omega-3 fatty acids in the foods we eat. As such, over the last several years we have been advised to augment our diets with fish oil supplements. The compounds found in fish oil - EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) - are associated with cardiovascular and brain health. Given that cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer for both men and women, it’s no wonder that healthcare professionals recommend taking an EPA DHA fish oil supplement on a daily basis.


To better understand the beneficial role of fish oil in health maintenance, a basic review of fats is provided below. Given that so many formulations are available today - DHA only, EPA Only and EPA DHA fish oil to name a few – the merits of each is reviewed along with how to determine the fish oil supplement that best meets your health needs.

Flax Seed Oil

Already taking a multi? Then adding an Omega-3 supplement is your next step to nutritional health. Flax Seed Oil is one of the richest sources of alpha-linolenic acid - an essential Omega-3 fatty acid that our body needs for overall health and wellness. But, the modern diet makes it difficult to obtain sufficient amounts of this essential nutrient. Our flax seed oil was developed in partnership with Omega Nutrition, a Canadian based company that specializes in producing organic seed oils for over 20 years. Just one to two softgels daily supports supple-looking skin, joint lubrication and regularity.  Learn more about Omega-3s.  Bottle contains 90 softgels.

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Super EPA/DHA Fish Oil

Special Offer While Supplies Last!  Our current lot of Super EPA/DHA is on clearance because the expiration date is May 2014.  Please note, this does not mean that the product is bad; the supplement can be used well beyond the expiration date. Given the short shelf-life, we're happy to send you a full bottle at no cost. You just pay for shipping.  Add Super EPA/DHA to your cart and at check-out, enter the coupon code FREEFISH14.

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Fatty Acids: The Building Blocks of Fats
What are Omega-3, Omega-6 & Omega-9 Fats?
Essential & Conditionally Essential Fatty Acids
EPA DHA Fish Oil Corrects Dietary Imbalance
What are the Benefits of EPA DHA Fish Oil?
EPA DHA Fish Oil: Health Benefits for Your Heart
EPA DHA Fish Oil: Health Benefits for Your Brain
How much EPA DHA Fish Oil should you consume?
Can I Obtain Sufficient Amounts of EPA & DHA from Foods?
What about Mercury and PCBs in EPA DHA Fish Oil Supplements?
Should I Take an EPA DHA Fish Oil, EPA Only or DHA Only Supplement?
What about Cod Liver Oil?
What about Flax Seed Oil?


Fatty Acids: The Building Blocks of Fats
Although fats are derived from numerous sources (e.g., seeds, fish, cheese) and come in a variety of forms (solid, liquid), they have a common molecular structure called a fatty acid. A fatty acid is comprised of a carbon back bone from which hydrogen atoms are attached.


If hydrogen atoms are attached to all of the carbons – or the molecule is fully “loaded” - the fatty acid is called saturated. If at least two of the hydrogens are missing, and a double bond is created between two carbons, the fatty acid is considered unsaturated. If more than two sets of hydrogen atoms are missing, and more than one double bond is created, the fatty acid is referred to as polyunsaturated.


The terms saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats should sound familiar to you. Saturated fats which are more solid at room temperature and tend to come from animal sources (e.g., cheese, palm seed oil) are associated with disease-promotion. Unsaturated fats which are more liquid at room temperature and are derived primarily from plant sources (e.g. olives, canola, flax or fish) are associated with health-promotion.


What are Omega-3, Omega-6 & Omega-9 Fats?
Unsaturated fatty acids can be further classified as belonging to an Omega-3, Omega-6 or Omega-9 group. Fatty acids that belong to any of the Omega families by definition are unsaturated. While the fats in the Omega-3 and Omega-6 families are polyunsaturated, the fats in the Omega-9 family are monounsaturated.


The Omega-3 fats include ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). Flax seeds and walnuts are an excellent source of ALA whereas certain types of fish are good sources of EPA and DHA. Some types of algae are good sources of DHA. Of course, EPA DHA fish oil supplements provide a convenient and easy way to obtain these two important dietary fats.


The Omega-6 fats include LA (Linoleic acid) and GLA (Gamma-linolenic acid). Seeds oils derived from canola, safflower, sunflower, soy and corn are high in LA. Given that the modern diet is heavily weighed toward using these oils, supplementing with an Omega-6 supplement is not necessary and may in fact be unwise. Borage oil and evening primrose oil are good sources of GLA.


Omega-9 fats include OA (Oleic acid). Oils from olive, almond, avocado and peanut are high in OA. Creating a homemade salad dressing using olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a hint of honey is an excellent way to increase your intake of this heart-healthy oil.


Essential & Conditionally Essential Fatty Acids
Our bodies require a number of essential nutrients to promote and maintain health. Although some dietary fats are considered harmful, two special types of fat are necessary for good health and youthful skin. These two fats (or fatty acids) must be obtained either through diet or supplementation, hence their name essential fatty acids, or EFAs. The two essential fats are Alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3) and Linoleic acid (Omega-6).


From Alpha-linolenic acid, the body makes both EPA and DHA, the two fats associated with brain and cardiovascular health. From Linolenic acid, the body makes GLA, another type of fat that is found in Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil – fatty acid supplements women often take to relieve menopausal symptoms.


In addition to providing the “starter material” for these health-promoting polyunsaturated fats, Essential Fatty Acids are transformed into key regulatory compounds called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like compounds that play a role in various bodily functions including inflammation, blood clotting, sodium/potassium balance, blood pressure and lipid metabolism.


So-called “favorable” prostaglandins are associated with good health whereas “unfavorable” prostaglandins are associated with inflammation and disease, particularly cardiovascular disorders. In general, dietary consumption of Omega-3 fats promotes formation of favorable prostaglandins, whereas consumption of Omega-6 fats leads to the unfavorable or inflammatory prostaglandins.


Like Alpha-linolenic acid, both EPA and DHA promote the development of favorable prostaglandins. Although our bodies are able to convert Alpha-linolenic acid to EPA and DHA, our ability to form these important compounds is limited. This is why these two fats are considered “conditionally essential”.


EPA DHA Fish Oil Corrects Dietary Imbalance
Americans typically obtain an adequate amount of Omega-6 fats in their diet, especially Linoleic acid. This is because these fats are derived from plants such as soybean, corn and safflower, which are widely available in our food supply.


In contrast, most of us do not obtain sufficient Omega-3 fats in our diet. These fats, which are found in flax seeds, walnuts and certain kinds of fish, are not as readily available in the food supply. They also degrade quickly with exposure to heat, light and oxygen. Food manufacturers prefer the Omega-6 seed oils which can be chemically altered (e.g., partially-hydrogenated corn oil) to create a product that has a long shelf-life.


Importantly, the desired ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in the diet should be about 2:1. Instead, the ratio in our diets is closer to 10:1. This dietary imbalance in fatty acids (excessive Omega-6 and insufficient Omega-3 intake) is a fundamental underlying cause of many chronic diseases today, including cardiovascular disease, many cancers, most inflammatory diseases, and many psychological disturbances.


One way to address this dietary imbalance is by reducing the number of foods consumed that contain Omega-6 fats. Most packaged, processed foods including salad dressings, cookies, crackers, cakes, etc. are made with Omega-6 oils especially corn and soybean. Substituting these foods with complex carbs, like fruits and vegetables plus adding deep, cold water fish like salmon, goes a long way toward addressing the problem.


Another way to correct this dietary imbalance is to supplement with EPA DHA fish oil.


What are the Benefits of EPA DHA Fish Oil?
More than 8,000 studies published over the past 35 years have consistently shown that EPA and DHA are important to health throughout every stage of life.


DHA plays a critical role in maintaining healthy functioning of:

  • The nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and network of nerves

  • The eyes, particularly the retina

EPA may be associated with reduced risk of: 

  • Coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other conditions of mental deterioration 

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other behavioral problems

  • Mental health conditions, including aggression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, & schizophrenia 

  • Inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease

EPA DHA Fish Oil: Health Benefits for Your Heart
Omega-3 fats are essential to a healthy heart because they combat inflammation. Scientists have recently discovered that inflammation is closely linked to cardiovascular disease. Research suggests that EPA and DHA may help prevent plaque deposits and blood clots — which can lead to heart attacks and strokes — from developing in your arteries. Studies also suggest that EPA and DHA may help reduce your risk of other coronary diseases and conditions that could lead to strokes and heart attacks.


The American Heart Association agrees that Omega-3 EPA and DHA are essential to a healthy cardiovascular system. Specifically, it recognizes the following benefits from these two good-for-you fats:

  • Reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes

  • Reduction in blood thickness (viscosity)

  • Relaxation of blood vessels (vasodilation)

  • Lowering of blood pressure

  • Reduced risk of blood clots in coronary arteries (thrombosis)

  • Protection against heartbeat abnormalities (arrhythmia, ventricular tachycardia, fibrillation)

  • Reduction of triglycerides (blood fat levels)

  • Protection against hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)

  • Protection against plaque rupture

  • Good overall heart health

Supplementing with EPA DHA fish oil ensures that you obtain sufficient amounts of these Omega-3 nutrients to support cardiovascular health.


EPA DHA Fish Oil: Health Benefits for Your Brain
Your brain is one of the vital organs that require Omega-3s to perform optimally. In fact, 60% of your brain is made up of structural fat (a large part of which is DHA), and it requires a regular intake of good fats, such as Omega-3, to function properly. Research suggests that DHA may reduce the risk of the following conditions: 

  • Memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral problems

  • Mental health conditions, including aggression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, and schizophrenia

Supplementing with EPA DHA fish oil ensures that you obtain sufficient amounts of these Omega-3 nutrients to support brain health.


How much EPA DHA Fish Oil should you consume?
Although Daily Reference Values are established for total fat and saturated fat, they have not been established for Omega-3s. Instead, an Acceptable Intake (AI) has been assigned. In men, the AI for Omega-3s is 1.6 grams a day; for women it is 1.1 grams a day.


In the absence of Recommended Daily Allowances, a number of prominent health organizations offer guidelines as to the amount of Omega-3s to obtain on a daily basis.


The American Heart Association (AHA), a national, voluntary health agency in the U.S. whose mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke, recommends eating fatty fish twice weekly, or for heart patients: 1 g EPA/DHA daily and 2-4 g EPA/DHA daily for patients who need to lower triglycerides.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and one of the world’s foremost medical research centers, recommends a total of 650 mg EPA/DHA, with at least 220 mg of each.


The U.S. Food & Drug Administration(FDA) which is responsible for protecting Americans’ health by assuring the safety and efficacy of foods and drugs recommends up to 3 g of Omega-3 (EPA/DHA) daily from food and up to 2 g from supplements.


Can I Obtain Sufficient Amounts of EPA & DHA from Foods?
The preferable way to obtain the health-promoting Omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, is from the foods you eat. Good sources of EPA and DHA are found in cold water oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. However, as the chart below indicates, at least several ounces of these types of fish would need to be eaten daily in order to obtain just 1 gram of EPA and DHA.


Fish

EPA + DHA
Content (grams)
Per 3-ounce
Serving Fish

Ounces of Fish
Required to Provide
~1 gram of
EPA+DHA Per Day

White tuna, canned in water
Fresh Tuna

0.73
0.24 – 1.28

4 ounces
2.5 – 12 ounces

Sardines

0.98 – 1.70

2 – 3 ounces

Salmon, Chinook
Atlantic, Farmed
Atlantic, Wild

1.48
1.09 – 1.83
0.9 – 1.56

2 ounces
1.5 – 2.5 ounces
2 – 3.5 ounces

Mackerel

0.34 – 1.57

2 – 8.5 ounces

Herring, Pacific

1.81

1.5 ounces

Trout, Wild

0.84

3.5 ounces

Halibut

0.4 – 1.0

3-7.5 ounces

Oysters, Pacific

1.17

2.5 ounces

 

Note: The intakes of fish given above are very rough estimates because oil content can vary markedly (>300%) with species, season, diet and packaging and cooking methods. Source: USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory


Another concern with oily fish is the potential presence of heavy metals and fat-soluble pollutants like PCBs and dioxin, which may accumulate up the food chain. For these reasons, many individuals find that taking an EPA DHA fish oil supplement is not only more convenient but safer.


What about Mercury and PCBs in EPA DHA Fish Oil Supplements?
If oily fish has the potential to contain pollutants, it makes sense that fish oil supplements derived from these fish could also include harmful chemicals.


According to a product review conducted by Consumer Labs in 2008, none of the fish oil supplements tested was found to contain detectable levels of mercury [over 10 ppb (parts per billion)]. By comparison, mercury levels in fish generally range from 10 ppb to 1,000 ppb, depending on the fish. In addition, none of the products contained unsafe levels of lead, PCBs or dioxins.


The Consumer Labs’ study authors provided several possible explanations for the lack of contaminants found in the supplements: the use of species of fish that are less likely to accumulate mercury; the fact that most mercury is found in fish meat and not fish oil; and distillation processes used in processing fish oil that can remove contaminants.


Should I Take an EPA DHA Fish Oil, EPA Only or DHA Only Supplement?
Now that you better understand the health benefits of EPA and DHA, what type of formulation should you take? The answer depends on your health objectives. If you’re looking for brain health benefits then a DHA formula might be right for you. If you’re interested in cardiovascular benefits, then an EPA formula might be best. Since most of us seek both sets of benefits, a formula that combines both EPA and DHA in one convenient softgel is often the best solution.


What about Cod Liver Oil?
With increased focus and attention on Omega-3s, it’s no wonder that cod liver oil has experienced resurgence. The amount of EPA and DHA provided in cod liver oil can vary from just 200 mg per capsule to much higher levels. Importantly, cod liver oil is well-known for its high vitamin A and D content (one teaspoon provides about 4,500 IUs of vitamin A and 450 IUs of vitamin D). Postmenopausal women need to watch their vitamin A intake (from retinols) from combined food and supplement sources (note: low fat milk products are fortified with both vitamins). A large study conducted in 2002 showed that a diet high in retinols promoted the development of osteoporotic hip fractures in adult women. For this reason, an EPA DHA fish oil supplement may be a safer alternative.


What about Flax Seed Oil?
As discussed earlier, flax seed oil is nature’s richest source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of two essential fatty acids (EFA) our bodies need for overall health and wellness. Since this EFA is not widely available in our food supply, supplementing with flax seed oil is recommended. As a health-promoting supplement, flax seed oil also promotes more supple-looking skin.


From ALA, our bodies synthesize two polyunsaturated fats, EPA and DHA. However, this conversion process is not very efficient. So, if you’re looking to obtain adequate amounts of these two important fats, the best way to obtain them is by taking a separate EPA DHA fish oil supplement.


As Omega-3 supplements, both flax seed oil and EPA DHA fish oil supplements help to rebalance the proportion of Omega-6 to Omega-3 more closely to the desired ratio of 2:1. Restoring this balance helps to dampen production of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.


For these reasons, it makes sense to supplement with flax seed oil and EPA DHA fish oil supplements. In healthy adults, taking just 1 softgel capsule of each daily is usually sufficient.