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Omega-3 contains vital fatty acids that support the human body and its functions. Since the valuable substance cannot be produced by the body, the development of a deficiency of omega-3 should be prevented. If it is not possible to cover the requirement through a balanced diet, omega-3 oil is a good choice.

In our omega-3 oil test 2021 you will find all the important information about the different types, forms of intake and ingredients of the fatty acid. Animal and vegetable omega-3 fatty acids are compared with each other. In this way, we want to make your purchase decision easier and help you find a supplement that best suits your dietary habits.




The most important facts

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are essential, polyunsaturated fatty acids that have an animal or plant origin and cannot be produced in the body itself.
  • The best-known representatives include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are obtained from fish oil. The vegan alternative, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is produced from linseed oil, walnuts or chia seeds.
  • For humans, taking it can be beneficial to health, as long as the recommended daily intake is not exceeded. Supplements containing important fatty acids can be obtained in different dosage forms.

The Best Omega-3 oil: Our Picks

Buying and evaluation criteria for omega-3 oils

In the following, we would like to show you which criteria you can use to decide between the different omega-3 oil products.

When buying omega-3 oil, you can consider the following characteristics:

Below you can read what each criterion is and find out what role the properties should play in your decision.

Ingredients

Choosing the right omega-3 oil also depends on your diet. While most oils are made from fish oil, there is also a range of plant-based omega-3 products for vegetarians and vegans.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be of both animal and plant origin. Basically, an α-linolenic acid (ALA) is derived from plants, while fish oil mainly contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

To gain a closer insight, we would like to explain the most important properties and modes of action of the different omega-3 fats in the table. (1)

Omega-3 fat properties and modes of action
EPA physiological functions in cells, tissues and organs are promoted

Inflammatory processes are reduced

Signs of depression are alleviated

Immune system is strengthened

DHA development of brain functions is supported

positive effect on circulatory and heart diseases

Joint pain is relieved

ALA oxidative processes are inhibited

neurological diseases are alleviated

regenerative properties to ward off free radicals

It is known that the active ingredients of animal origin are often in higher doses than plant-based omega-3 products. Omega-3 fatty acids of plant origin are therefore converted by the body to a lesser extent into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Bear in mind that reputable manufacturers are obliged to list all ingredients in food supplements. This is mainly done in the form of a nutritional table. If you can find preparations without specific information on the contents, you should refrain from taking them.

Concentration of omega-3 in oil

The higher the omega-3 content, the better the effects on the body. For this reason, the concentration of omega-3 in the oil should be taken into account when buying.

However, many high-dose products have a fishy aftertaste, which not everyone is comfortable with. Therefore, if you want to buy an omega-3 oil, you should make sure that it has been mixed with natural flavourings.

In the following table, we have summarised the most productive omega-3 sources and their edible content of omega-3 fatty acids. These are divided into animal and plant sources.

Plant source (per 100 grams) Animal source (per 100 grams)
Linseed oil: 52,800 mg

Chia seeds: 19,000 mg

Walnuts: 1,0172 mg

Herring: 2,040 mg

Salmon: 750 mg

Tuna: 4,923 mg

The plant-based omega-3 fatty acid ALA is found primarily in flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts. Associated vegetable oils such as linseed oil, walnut oil and rapeseed oil are also particularly rich in ALA.

The animal omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are mainly found in marine products such as fatty cold-water fish, krill, crustaceans and algae.

Vegetable omega-3 oils should be used with caution, as they may contain traces of nuts, soya or gluten. Depending on the manufacturer, some omega-3 oils also contain additional vitamins and antioxidants, such as vitamin E (2)

Extracting the omega-3 oil

When consuming supplements, special attention should also be paid to the origin, production and purity of a product. Especially with animal omega-3, the catch method, catch area and sustainability play an important role.

While vegetable omega-3 oil is processed from original oil seeds, fish oil is clearly extracted from fish. The crude oil is obtained by heating and pressing the fish. Depending on the manufacturer, the oil is filtered with varying degrees of care and purified of heavy metals and pollutants.

The gentler the processing, the better the omega-3 oil product. Fish oil that has been produced from fish waste can cause an unpleasant burping with a fishy taste after ingestion.

An odour test can tell you how high quality the fish oil is. Oxidised or spoiled oils smell unpleasant and should be avoided.

When buying, choose a product that comes from fish stocks that are not overfished. Fishing practices that catch endangered species as bycatch also have a negative impact on the ecosystem.

For these reasons, you should look for certifications and seals such as the "Friend of the Sea", "MSC Certificate" or the "Environmental Defense Fund".

Totox value of animal omega-3 oils

As already mentioned, the quality of fish oil can often be judged by its smell. In the meantime, however, there is also a scientific standard according to which the quality of the product can be determined: the Totox value. This value can be calculated, indicates the degree of oxidation of the fish oil and should be below 5 meq O2/kg.

The less oxygen gets to the oil and the faster it is processed, the better the Totox value. So basically, the lower the value, the better the product. Therefore, the omega-3 oil products should also be stored properly. (3)

Guide: Frequently asked questions about omega-3 oils answered in detail

In order to provide you with comprehensive information about the effectiveness of omega-3 oils and to give you an understanding of the current state of science, we have summarised all the important information in the following sections.

What are omega-3 fatty acids and how do they work?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a subgroup within the omega-n fatty acids, which are unsaturated compounds. Unlike saturated fatty acids, the body cannot produce these fatty acids itself, which is why they must be ingested through food.

Since omega-3 fatty acids are vital for our organism, they are also called essential fatty acids.

The most important omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids, which are mainly distinguished by their chemical structure and the natural source from which they originate. Omega-3 fatty acids can be easily absorbed in the form of oils or capsules.

Now the question arises as to how omega-3 fatty acids work. The effect depends less on the form of administration, i.e. oil or capsules. It is rather known that omega-3 fatty acids of animal origin (EPA and DHA) are much higher dosed in the final product than plant-based omega-3 products (ALA).

The unsaturated fatty acids perform essential tasks in the body. Their health-promoting effect is far-reaching. Their special feature is that they are incorporated as a whole into every cell membrane and thus have an effect throughout the entire body.

Effect of omega-3 on heart function

The heart is the most important muscle in the human body. Flow properties, as well as cellular metabolic processes, are among the factors influencing heart health. An adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids indicates that these factors can be positively influenced. (4, 5)

Effect of omega-3 on vision

The cells in the human eye contain a particularly large proportion of omega-3 fatty acids, as the unsaturated fatty acids are important components of the photoreceptor cells and the retina. (6)

DHA is even the most represented fatty acid in the photoreceptor cells with 60 %. It also plays an important role in the structure of the retina. The dietary supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids can therefore have a positive effect on vision. (6)

Effect of omega-3 on the brain

The brain is made up of a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids, as the highest levels of DHA are found in brain areas such as the cerebral cortex, mitochondria and synapses. 25% of the fat in the brain is DHA, which is involved in the formation of connections and transmission of signals in the brain. (7, 8)

Effect of omega-3 on pregnancy and newborns

Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on the development of the child, especially in the last trimester of pregnancy and in the first months of life. The intake of DHA by the mother contributes to the normal development of the eyes and brain in the foetus and the breastfed infant. Thus, it contributes to the normal development of the infant's vision. (9)

When properly dosed and used, omega-3 oils should have a positive effect on the things mentioned above. To be safe, you should always do enough research to find the right product for your needs.

What types of omega-3 oils are there?

In principle, omega-3 fatty acids can have both an animal and a plant origin. Basically, α-linolenic acid (ALA) is derived from plants, while fish oil mainly contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Now we would like to name and describe the three most important types of omega-3.

Type Description
Omega-3 oil of animal origin The animal omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are mainly found in marine products such as fatty cold-water fish, krill, crustaceans and algae.
Omega-3 oil of plant origin The plant omega-3 fatty acid ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found mainly in flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts and their associated oils. Examples are linseed oil, chia oil and walnut oil as well as rapeseed oil.

In the next few paragraphs, we would like to mention the respective types and their most important characteristics in more detail.

Omega-3 oil of animal origin

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the most biologically active omega-3 fatty acids. EPA is the basic substance of tissue hormones and serves the human organism as a starting substance for the formation of eicosanoids, i.e. hormone-like substances. (10)

Fish particularly rich in omega-3 include haddock, tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines. (Image source: unsplash / Jakub Kapusnak)

DHA is considered an essential membrane component. Since all body cells are coated with membranes, they ensure living and healthy cells in the first place. (10)

Advantages
  • more effective, as high-dose omega-3 components
  • quickly usable by the body
Disadvantages
  • higher environmental impact, not suitable for vegans or vegetarians

The oil has a higher effect, but there is a higher burden on the environment. It is also not suitable for vegans.

Omega-3 oil of plant origin

ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is the vegetable precursor of the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. In the process, the omega-3 from vegetable oils must first be converted into biologically valuable EPA and DHA in the body.

Nuts and seeds that are particularly rich in omega-3 include walnuts, almonds, cia seeds and flax seeds. (Image source: unsplash / Maddi Bazzocco)

However, the yield from this is meagre as the conversion rate is very low. Since the process does not pay off for the body in terms of energy, this happens rather rarely. If ALA is not converted into EPA or DHA, the acid remains as an energy store. (11, 12)

Advantages
  • kinder to the environment
  • suitable for vegans and vegetarians
Disadvantages
  • must be converted in the body
  • conversion rate is rather low

This oil is kinder to the environment and is also suitable for vegans. However, the conversion rate is low here.

When and for whom does it make sense to take omega-3 oil?

In principle, omega-3 oil is suitable for all people who want to benefit their body. The omega-3 fatty acids in the oil not only keep the cells young, but also keep mental performance up. As a food supplement, the oil can support the diet but cannot replace a balanced diet.

Omega-3 oil is suitable for:

  • People with omega-3 fatty acid deficiency
  • People who want to supplement their diet in a stressful daily routine
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women who want to support the health of the foetus or child
  • young children, but only in small amounts
  • in principle, also for animals, such as dogs and horses, to support their joints

If you suspect a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, you can compensate for it by taking it regularly. A deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test. Symptoms range from fatigue, skin problems, restlessness, poor vision and muscle weakness to memory loss, insomnia and joint pain. (13)

Mild omega-3 oil can be used, for example, as a dressing for salads, mixed into smoothies or taken straight. This way, you can easily integrate the extra substances into your daily life - especially if you don't have time to cook.

What does the daily requirement of omega-3 depend on?

How much omega-3 oil you should consume per day depends on your age, gender and weight, as well as your physical condition. There is no universal guideline, which is why various nutrition organisations have only made estimates.

Products with more than 2,000 ml of omega-3 fatty acids are considered particularly high-dose products and exceed the recommended daily requirement of EPA and DHA, which is between 250 mg and 300 mg per day for an adult. (14)

Children, on the other hand, should only take half the dose and athletes twice the dose. They need the extra omega-3 especially in the regeneration phase. A higher dose of 600 mg per day can ideally counteract sore muscles. (14)

Basically, you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions when taking omega-3 oil. Normally, these correspond to one tablespoon of pure oil or one to four capsules per day.

Can omega-3 oil cause side effects?

The motto for omega-3 oil is also: too much of a good thing is not good. Thus, omega-3 oil has hardly any undesirable side effects, as long as the recommended daily dose is not exceeded.

Overdoses can lead to belching with a fishy smell, flatulence, nausea or indigestion. Good product quality also promises the highest possible absence of pollutants and heavy metals, which can also cause harmful side effects.

A long-term overdose of EPA can even increase cholesterol levels. In addition, interactions with other medications are also possible and must be discussed with a doctor. The required dosage should also be clearly stated with the doctor. (15)

What are the alternatives to omega-3 oil?

If you want to have a positive influence on your health, omega-3 preparations often turn out to be the means of choice.

However, the healthy fats are not only found in food supplements. You can also cover your daily requirements with a healthy diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in the following foods:

Type Description
Omega-3 capsules Omega-3 capsules are basically capsules filled with an omega-3 oil. Since some people don't want to taste the oil, they can simply swallow it and therefore it offers a good alternative.
Foods Those who don't want to eat oil or capsules can meet their daily requirements with the help of omega-3 rich foods. Examples are:

Fish - haddock, tuna, mackerel, salmon, trout, sardine

Cooking oil - rapeseed oil, hemp oil, linseed oil, walnut oil, chia oil

Vegetables - Brussels sprouts, spinach, beans, avocado

Nuts and seeds - chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds

Soy products - soy oil, tofu, soy drink, soy flour

Omega 3 can of course not only be taken in through omega 3 capsules, but also through food. However, as already explained, an omega 3 deficiency can occur because not enough fatty acids are supplied through the food intake or there are other reasons for an omega 3 deficit. (16)

In such cases, you can take omega-3 capsules to cover your daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to inform yourself sufficiently and to consult a doctor if you are unsure.

Photo source: lightfieldstudios / 123rf

References (16)

1. Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan;3(1):1-7. doi: 10.3945/an.111.000893. Epub 2012 Jan 5. PMID: 22332096; PMCID: PMC3262608.
Source

2. Jackowski SA, Alvi AZ, Mirajkar A, Imani Z, Gamalevych Y, Shaikh NA, Jackowski G. Oxidation levels of North American over-the-counter n-3 (omega-3) supplements and the influence of supplement formulation and delivery form on evaluating oxidative safety. J Nutr Sci. 2015 Nov 4;4:e30. doi: 10.1017/jns.2015.21. PMID: 26688721; PMCID: PMC4678768.
Source

3. Abreu-González R, Díaz-Rodríguez R, Abreu-Reyes JA. Nutritional supplements with omega 3 in retinal disease: Relationship between volume and concentration in commercial products. Arch Soc Esp Oftalmol. 2018 Dec;93(12):592-597. English, Spanish. doi: 10.1016/j.oftal.2018.05.015. Epub 2018 Jul 17. PMID: 30025989.
Source

4. Versari, D., Daghini, E., Salvetti, G. et al. Omega 3. High Blood Press Cardiovasc Prev 15, 225–230 (2008). https://doi.org/10.2165/0151642-200815040-00002
Source

5. Abdelhamid AS, Brown TJ, Brainard JS et al (2018) Omega‑3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
Source

6. Epitropoulos AT, Donnenfeld ED, Shah ZA, Holland EJ, Gross M, Faulkner WJ, Matossian C, Lane SS, Toyos M, Bucci FA Jr, Perry HD. Effect of Oral Re-esterified Omega-3 Nutritional Supplementation on Dry Eyes. Cornea. 2016 Sep;35(9):1185-91. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0000000000000940. PMID: 27442314; PMCID: PMC4975557.
Source

7. Yurko-Mauro K, Alexander DD, Van Elswyk ME. Docosahexaenoic acid and adult memory: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 18;10(3):e0120391. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120391. PMID: 25786262; PMCID: PMC4364972.
Source

8. Schacky C. (2014) Hirnstruktur und Hirnfunktion: Rolle der Omega-3-Fettsäuren. Karl F. Haug Verlag in Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart
Source

9. Schmiedel, V. Omega-3-Fettsäuren in der Schwangerschaft. J. Gynäkol. Endokrinol. CH 23, 11–17 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41975-020-00129-0
Source

10. Shahidi F, Ambigaipalan P. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Health Benefits. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2018 Mar 25;9:345-381. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-111317-095850. PMID: 29350557.
Source

11. Doughman SD, Krupanidhi S, Sanjeevi CB. Omega-3 fatty acids for nutrition and medicine: considering microalgae oil as a vegetarian source of EPA and DHA. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2007 Aug;3(3):198-203. doi: 10.2174/157339907781368968. PMID: 18220672.
Source

12. Saunders AV, Davis BC, Garg ML. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vegetarian diets. Med J Aust. 2013 Aug 19;199(S4):S22-6. PMID: 25369925.
Source

13. Schacky, C. Verwirrung um die Wirkung von Omega-3-Fettsäuren. Internist 60, 1319–1327 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00108-019-00687-x
Source

14. von Schacky C, Kemper M, Haslbauer R, Halle M. Low Omega-3 Index in 106 German elite winter endurance athletes: a pilot study. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Oct;24(5):559-64. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2014-0041. Epub 2014 Sep 8. PMID: 25203220.
Source

15. Brunner J, Parhofer KG, Schwandt P, Bronisch T. Cholesterin, Omega-3-Fettsäuren und Suizidrisiko - Empirische Evidenz und pathophysiologische Hypothesen [Cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, and suicide risk: empirical evidence and pathophysiological hypotheses]. Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2001 Oct;69(10):460-7. German. doi: 10.1055/s-2001-17564. PMID: 11602922.
Source

16. Schuchardt JP, Hahn A. Bioavailability of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jul;89(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2013.03.010. Epub 2013 May 12. PMID: 23676322.
Source

Why you can trust me?

Wissenschaftlicher Review
Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012 Jan;3(1):1-7. doi: 10.3945/an.111.000893. Epub 2012 Jan 5. PMID: 22332096; PMCID: PMC3262608.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Jackowski SA, Alvi AZ, Mirajkar A, Imani Z, Gamalevych Y, Shaikh NA, Jackowski G. Oxidation levels of North American over-the-counter n-3 (omega-3) supplements and the influence of supplement formulation and delivery form on evaluating oxidative safety. J Nutr Sci. 2015 Nov 4;4:e30. doi: 10.1017/jns.2015.21. PMID: 26688721; PMCID: PMC4678768.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Abreu-González R, Díaz-Rodríguez R, Abreu-Reyes JA. Nutritional supplements with omega 3 in retinal disease: Relationship between volume and concentration in commercial products. Arch Soc Esp Oftalmol. 2018 Dec;93(12):592-597. English, Spanish. doi: 10.1016/j.oftal.2018.05.015. Epub 2018 Jul 17. PMID: 30025989.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Versari, D., Daghini, E., Salvetti, G. et al. Omega 3. High Blood Press Cardiovasc Prev 15, 225–230 (2008). https://doi.org/10.2165/0151642-200815040-00002
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Abdelhamid AS, Brown TJ, Brainard JS et al (2018) Omega‑3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Epitropoulos AT, Donnenfeld ED, Shah ZA, Holland EJ, Gross M, Faulkner WJ, Matossian C, Lane SS, Toyos M, Bucci FA Jr, Perry HD. Effect of Oral Re-esterified Omega-3 Nutritional Supplementation on Dry Eyes. Cornea. 2016 Sep;35(9):1185-91. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0000000000000940. PMID: 27442314; PMCID: PMC4975557.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Yurko-Mauro K, Alexander DD, Van Elswyk ME. Docosahexaenoic acid and adult memory: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015 Mar 18;10(3):e0120391. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120391. PMID: 25786262; PMCID: PMC4364972.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Schacky C. (2014) Hirnstruktur und Hirnfunktion: Rolle der Omega-3-Fettsäuren. Karl F. Haug Verlag in Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Schmiedel, V. Omega-3-Fettsäuren in der Schwangerschaft. J. Gynäkol. Endokrinol. CH 23, 11–17 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41975-020-00129-0
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Shahidi F, Ambigaipalan P. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Health Benefits. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2018 Mar 25;9:345-381. doi: 10.1146/annurev-food-111317-095850. PMID: 29350557.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Doughman SD, Krupanidhi S, Sanjeevi CB. Omega-3 fatty acids for nutrition and medicine: considering microalgae oil as a vegetarian source of EPA and DHA. Curr Diabetes Rev. 2007 Aug;3(3):198-203. doi: 10.2174/157339907781368968. PMID: 18220672.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Saunders AV, Davis BC, Garg ML. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vegetarian diets. Med J Aust. 2013 Aug 19;199(S4):S22-6. PMID: 25369925.
Go to source
Wissenschaftliche Studie
Schacky, C. Verwirrung um die Wirkung von Omega-3-Fettsäuren. Internist 60, 1319–1327 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00108-019-00687-x
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
von Schacky C, Kemper M, Haslbauer R, Halle M. Low Omega-3 Index in 106 German elite winter endurance athletes: a pilot study. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Oct;24(5):559-64. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2014-0041. Epub 2014 Sep 8. PMID: 25203220.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Brunner J, Parhofer KG, Schwandt P, Bronisch T. Cholesterin, Omega-3-Fettsäuren und Suizidrisiko - Empirische Evidenz und pathophysiologische Hypothesen [Cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids, and suicide risk: empirical evidence and pathophysiological hypotheses]. Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2001 Oct;69(10):460-7. German. doi: 10.1055/s-2001-17564. PMID: 11602922.
Go to source
Wissenschaftlicher Review
Schuchardt JP, Hahn A. Bioavailability of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2013 Jul;89(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2013.03.010. Epub 2013 May 12. PMID: 23676322.
Go to source
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