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According to research, taking a supplement with EPA and DHA from fish, krill or algae may offer potential health benefits including the brain, mental health, treating inflammatory disease, maintaining muscle, and even cancer prevention. As far as cardiovascular and brain benefits, eating fatty fish (e.g., salmon, trout, sardines, and barramundi) at least twice a week may do you more good than taking a fish oil supplement.

If you choose to supplement, you need to become knowledgable about the forms, the concentrations in varying brands, and the necessary doses to achieve the benefits found in clinical trials. A registered dietitian who is educated on the subject may be able to provide guidance.

DOSAGE: A general daily dose is 300 to 500 mg, while some treatments use much higher doses. In general, a supplement which provides 1,000 mg. (one gram) of EPA and DHA combined will offer a wide variety of benefits. Fish oil is generally purified, and the processing used changes the form. For vegetarians, oil derived from algae can be a good alternative.

WHEN TO TAKE: The absorption of fish oil is improved when taken with a high-fat meal.

FORM: If you cannot take the supplement with a high-fat meal, look for the "re-esterified triglyceride" form which is better absorbed.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Don't be fooled by the dosage claims on the front label. You will see statements such as "contains 1,200 mg. fish oil." Ignore that information. Turn the bottle around and check the supplement fact panel. Look for the two rows of data which reveal how much DHA and EPA are present. If the sum of the two numbers is near 1,000, then the brand may be the right choice. If you experience the "fish burp," you should look for an enteric-coated capsule

Another concern is rancidity. To avoid this concern, buy the supplements from a reputable supplier who turns their stock regularly. One brand--which Consumer Labs (CL) tested and approved--is Solgar Triple Strength Omega 3. This independent lab's "Top Picks" for enteric-coated are GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil (1,000 mg of EPA and DHA), and Webber Naturals Triple Strength Omega 3 900 mg. CL tested two vegetarian brands, one of which (Ovega-3), which provides a combined total of 405 mg. EPA and DHA. This dose is enough to provide brain health benefits.

CAUTION: Fish oil is a blood thinner and may lower blood pressure, so be sure to tell your physicians and surgeons about the dosage you are taking. Also, unless prescribed, do not exceed two grams per day.

Note: Nancy Teeter is a SaddleBrooke resident and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of heart, brain, digestion, and health with others.