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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.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 The most important facts
- 3 The Best Omega-3 oil: Our Picks
- 4 Buying and evaluation criteria for omega-3 oils
- 5 Guide: Frequently asked questions about omega-3 oils answered in detail
- 5.1 What are omega-3 fatty acids and how do they work?
- 5.2 What types of omega-3 oils are there?
- 5.3 When and for whom does it make sense to take omega-3 oil?
- 5.4 What does the daily requirement of omega-3 depend on?
- 5.5 Can omega-3 oil cause side effects?
- 5.6 What are the alternatives to omega-3 oil?
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:
- Concentration of omega-3 in oil
- Extracting the omega-3 oil
- Totox value of animal omega-3 oils
Below you can read what each criterion is and find out what role the properties should play in your decision.
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.
|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)
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)
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.
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)
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:
|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.
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