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3 "Fishy" Myths About Fish Oil Supplements, From A Nutrition Scientist

Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.
Image by mindbodygreen
December 22, 2021

Our director of scientific affairs and in-house nutritionist Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, has quickly become our resident myth-buster for nutrition matters. From multivitamin red flags to the vitamin D mistakes that make her cringe, she's always game to pull back the curtain on the vast, confusing world of supplements. Today is no different: On this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Ferira gives us the scoop on all things omega-3s. 

Below, she explains the "fishiest" things she hears about omega-3 fish oil supplements: 

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1.

Fish oil tastes fishy.

"One of the most common myths I hear is, 'I don't like fish oil, because it's fishy,'" says Ferira. Of course, everyone has different flavor preferences, but according to Ferira, your fish oil actually shouldn't smell or taste off. "If your fish oil smells funny—fishy, sour, or it's very yellow—these are signs of bad purity," she says. "It's a sign of oxidation." Similar to how the olive oil in your kitchen can go rancid—your fish oil can lose its freshness too. 

See, a lot of brands will actually feature or "spike" their products with cheaper, lower-quality types of fish oils—and these lower-quality oils have higher oxidation and contaminant levels, says Ferira. "[Some brands] will brag about having salmon or some expensive-sounding fish, but, in fact, they're spiking it with lower-quality and less expensive fishes," she notes. "It is common." 

The oils have the potential to go rancid during the production and transportation (i.e., global shipment) processes as well—say, if a brand sources fish oil from all over the world, letting it sit on a hot ship for months before finally formulating it into a product. "There's a lot of potential for oxidation and reduced shelf life," says Ferira. 

In contrast, the pure anchovy oil in our omega-3 potency+ is what we call, "from catch to capsule." Says Ferira, after these cold-water, sustainably sourced fish are wild-caught in the South Pacific, the state-of-the-art facility in Chile uses 100% solar energy to extract the oil in its purest and most bioavailable triglyceride form, then it heads straight to the U.S. (i.e., minimizing its carbon footprint) to be encapsulated in our tilapia softgel. The result? A clear, slightly yellow omega-3 supplement with industry-leading purity that never tastes or smells fishy. 

2.

Fish oil makes you burp. 

"The second most common thing I hear about fish oil is, 'It makes me burp,'" says Ferira. "Fish oil shouldn't make you burp…that's not a good sign of the quality of the oil." Of course, people can still be prone to burp for a number of physiologic reasons—if you do belch, you definitely don't want your burp to taste fishy.

That's why, aside from the super-low oxidation parameters and contaminant levels, a high-quality fish oil supplement will weave in botanicals to increase freshness and the oil's shelf life over time (which helps keep the product from going rancid and, thus, tasting fishy). Specifically, we added organic lemon oil into our formula: "Aside from actually delivering antioxidant properties from this citrus plant, if you were to burp, it is helping it to be a pleasant, fresh-tasting experience," says Ferira. Rosemary extract (another star botanical in mbg's omega-3 potency+) also increases freshness and stability over time.  

"But again, rosemary and lemon have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions in their own right,"* Ferira adds. And their added flavor is a welcome bonus: "We hope that the people who stopped taking their fish oil because of the fear of the burp-back phenomenon, we have you covered. Why don't you give it a go again?" 

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3.

You only need two servings of fish a week.

This broad recommendation for the general population comes from the American Heart Association, and it took off years ago (like two decades ago). "If you eat two servings of fish per week, the EPA and DHA are tied to cardiovascular protection,"* says Ferira. And two servings of fish a week delivers roughly 500 milligrams of EPA + DHA daily—but this is actually just the starting point. "That is your baseline; it's not the goal" for optimal health.*

In fact, research suggests that 1,000 milligrams (aka 1 gram) and up of EPA and DHA per day offer proportionately greater heart-health benefits.* Ferira puts it this way: "So a gram-plus confers incremental additional benefits for cardiometabolic health."* (And if you're wondering, our omega-3 potency+ lives up to its name, delivers a whopping 1.5 grams of marine omega-3s EPA + DHA in each serving, just two gelcaps.)

The takeaway. 

If you're in the market for an omega-3 supplement, be aware of these pervasive fish oil myths. The first step when choosing a high-quality supplement, after all, is weeding out the not-so-stellar players.

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Enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music!

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
Jason Wachob
Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO

Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.