Fish oil supplements

A fattier cut of salmon (think: skin-on, high skin-to-flesh ratio, etc.) has about ~2 g EPA & DHA (fish oil, FO) per 100 g, or ~10 g per pound.  Average price (around here, this time of year) is ~$10 / lb.  So, about $1 / gram FO, in 50 g salmon.  See also, the Fish Blog.


As reasoned in The poor, misunderstood calorie, FO from seafood is roughly 4x more effective than FO from supps.  There was no head-to-head study comparing seafood to supps, but a study on seafood with half the dose of FO was twice as efficacious as a study on supps.  Half the dose + twice as efficacious  = 4x.  The greater bioavailability and assimilation of FO from seafood can only explain a small part of this… I suspect other nutrients in seafood explain another part, and displacement of other calories by the protein in seafood further explains another part.  But this post is about FO per se.





The top 2 ranked fish oil supps on LabDoor are WHC UnoCardio and Viva Naturals.  And for comparison, the top 3 best sellers & highly ranked products from Amazon are PacificCoast, Bulk Supplements, and Dr. Tobias.


Let’s say to be “worth it,” monetarily, supps should provide 4x more FO per dollar than seafood.



Quick and dirty calculations:



Given these parameters, Viva Naturals wins.  But you still should eat seafood because FO alone can’t fully explain the benefits of seafood.  And you should also consider turmeric to maximize the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to DHA and protect it from peroxidation.

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  • Jack Kruse

    Way to go Bill. Nice job here.

  • TechnoTriticale

    Would love to eat more seafood. The challenges are:

    1. Having some assurance that the fish are actually wild-caught wild fish, and not off-shore farmed (or even inland farmed) fish passed off as WC. We may not be able to rely on legacy/reference sources for lipid levels in fish. Farmed are fed CAFO-class junk which reportedly raises linoleic acid levels and drives down DHA&EPA.

    2. Allaying concerns about toxins in larger fish higher in the marine food chain. Sardines might be fine, but the way they are packaged can present a separate array of concerns.

    Credibility of sourcing claims may vary by country.

    • good points. Wild is better than farmed for some things, but not all things:

    • Emmie

      I eat fish regularly and find Wild Planet to be reliable in terms of wild caught, sustainable.

      I have a tendency to ‘thin blood’ (genetic testing), so I never tale fish oil supplements, but eating fish regularly does not pose a problem, and I get the benefits.

  • Ela

    One way to get cheaper and fattier salmon: some supermarkets sell salmon heads (lots of skin, the eye fat, tender cartilage, can make broth from the bones), and my local ghetto Fry’s sells them for $1/lb!!! That makes the fish oil much cheaper.
    The only catch: it’s farmed salmon. So I don’t know if it really has EPA/DHA to the extent that it would if it was wild.

    Fish is definitely my favorite type of meat (perhaps having been veg/vegan most of my life? I just prefer the taste. I don’t understand why many people are so weird about fish and eat other much grosser-seeming things). But I take the fish oil caps as well. I have bipolar disorder and higher doses of fish oil are shown helpful with that (although for me nutritional ketosis seems to be even more important).

  • johnny

    Hey Bill, wouldn’t consumption of extra virgin cod liver oil be a good source of natural FAs?

    • it’s about 15-20% EPA+DHA by weight, so less concentrated than the supps, but still a good source

      I’d see if the manufacturer tests for purity, peroxidation, etc.

    • TechnoTriticale

      With CLO, a comfortably high daily dose of Omega 3 may be too high a dose of retinol.

      • 1 tsp = ~1g n3, 4500 IU (90%) RDA Vit A.

        Vit A toxicity is rare, unless chronic ingestion of >20x that much Vit A for a very long time…

        assuming CLO isn’t your only source of n3, and hopefully capitalizing on the turmeric/DHA hack (, I don’t see this as a big risk

        • TechnoTriticale

          3 to 4 grams ?3 per day as CLO would put the retinol above tolerable Upper Limit, unless my references and figures are incorrect.

          My read of the lit suggests that less than 2g ?3 is sub-clinical, but sure, at 1g, no real problem for A.

          • 1 tsp = 1g n3, 1350 ug (4500 IU)
            x3 = 4050 ug

            yeah, that’s pushing it a bit, however, the Wikipedia page on Vit A toxicity has this:

            “ingestion of high amounts of preformed vitamin A for months or years – results from daily intakes greater than 25,000 IU for 6 years or longer and more than 100,000 IU for 6 months or longer – are considered toxic.”


    • Daz

      What Techno said,
      CLO (if you take it) primarily for the vitamin A/retinol,
      Not for the DHA/EPA or Vitamin D.

  • Michael Padula

    I would have thought Carlson or Nordic Naturals would be the top. Anyhow I agree w what you are saying BUT. Since i moved to Bethlehem PA from NJ (where almost everyone eats fish) out here, you have no idea how many grown women I meet say, ” I dont eat fish, its disgusting!” So there is not much choice but to use supplements.

  • Meme

    How does fish oil NOT become oxidized at human body temperatures?

    • DHA isn’t *that* unstable in vivo… and there are many lipid-soluble antioxidant systems in the body