A customer queried us recently with a common question: "Is there any prescribed dosage for your sockeye oil supplement?"
We recommend taking two to four capsules per day: preferably the latter, for reasons we’ll explain below. And, as we will also explain, the amount of supplemental omega-3s you decide to take will depend on your fatty fish consumption and other factors.
Note: If you take blood-thinning drugs or have a serious cardiovascular condition—especially a diagnosis of angina or an irregular heartbeat that involves use of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)—check with your doctor before taking any omega-3 supplements. While omega-3s are proven to protect against heart attacks and strokes, they may be inadvisable in certain circumstances.
Our advice to take two to four capsules per day flows from the intake recommendations of the two scientific bodies with the greatest expertise in this area: the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL)
The IOM recommends taking 260-400 mg of omega-3s per day (depending on gender), while ISSFAL recommends taking 660 mg of omega-3s per day.
Each 1000 mg capsule of Vital Choice sockeye oil provides about 160 mg of the two key omega-3s (90 mg EPA and 70 mg DHA), so you would need to take two to four capsules per day to meet the IOM and ISSFAL guidelines, as follows.
NOTE: these recommendations assume that you are not getting omega-3s by eating fish; see “Consider the dietary context”, below:
Number of capsules to meet ISSFAL’s omega-3 intake guidelines
- BOTH GENDERS: Take four capsules of our sockeye oil per day to meet ISSFAL’s optimal daily intake level (660 mg).
Number of capsules to meet IOM’s omega-3 intake guidelines
- MEN: Take three capsules of our sockeye oil per day to meet the IOM’s optimal daily intake level (400 mg).
- WOMEN: Take two capsules of our sockeye oil per day to meet the IOM’s optimal daily intake level (260 mg).
We think it makes more sense to rely on the ISSFAL recommendation, which is that adults of both genders should consume at least 660 mg of long-chain, marine-source omega-3s (EPA and DHA).
Our greater confidence in ISSFAL’s 660 mg recommendation stems from the fact that this organization represents the world's leading fatty acid researchers, including some members of the IOM advisory panel.
The IOM’s intake recommendations for omega-3s are presented in terms of the percent of daily calories men or women these fats should constitute. Accordingly, the IOM’s intake recommendation for women is lower than for men, because
women are assumed to need and consume fewer calories.
Distilled salmon oils lack the astaxanthin (antioxidant pigment) that turns salmon flesh red.
Left: Vital Choice Sockeye Salmon Oil (undistilled)
Right: Natural Factors “Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil”
Bottom: GNC “Salmon Oil”
(All capsules are colorless)
However, there is no evidence that women need fewer omega-3s, and it’s well established that pregnant and nursing women need more omega-3s to ensure that their fetuses and infants get enough.
We should note that in addition to the omega-3s most valuable to health (EPA and DHA), each capsule of our sockeye oil also contains about 100 mg of other assorted omega-3 fatty acid molecules. However, it appears that the body does not make much use of these omega-3s for the metabolic purposes that make EPA and DHA so valuable.
Adequate omega-3 intake is not enough: avoiding omega-6 fats
While ensuring adequate intake of omega-3s is critical, most people also need to decrease their intake of omega-6 fatty acids. These fats compete with omega-3s for uptake into cell membranes, where fatty acids exert many of their effects, so if you consume too much omega-6 fat, it will prevent your body from making full use of the omega-3s you ingest.
Unfortunately, the diets of most people in America and other industrialized countries contain enormous excesses of omega-6s, consuming 20 to 40 times more omega-6 than omega-3, instead of the three-to-one ratio recommended by virtually all nutrition researchers.
To avoid a dietary excess of omega-6 fatty acid, just avoid the vegetable oils in which it is most abundant. Unfortunately, this is not easy to do, since omega-6 fatty acid is abundant in corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, cottonseed, and soy oils, which are the oils used most often in households and to make packaged, frozen, and restaurant foods.
Canola and soy oils are often mischaracterized as being sources of omega-3s. While they do contain more omega-3 fat—in the form of ALA—than the other common vegetable oils, omega-6s constitute the large majority of their fatty acids.
And the small amounts of omega-3 ALA in canola and soy oil are of little value. This is because the body needs omega-3s in the long-chain, “marine” forms found in fish—EPA and DHA—and can convert only about two to 10 percent of ALA into marine omega-3s.
The best vegetable oils to use in cooking are extra virgin olive oil and macadamia nut oil, which are low in omega-6 fats and high in monounsaturated fats. Neither of these delicious oils contains large amounts of omega-6 fat, and extra virgin olive oil is rich in a class of extraordinarily potent anti-inflammatory antioxidants called tyrosols, which are believed to decelerate aging, dampen chronic, silent inflammation, and aid heart health.
Liquid for the little ones
What about kids? We’ve seen no specific, science-based dose recommendations for children. However, omega-3s are essential for proper brain and eye development in the early years—and offer a very sound safety record—so it seems appropriate to give young children supplemental amounts.
So that children can enjoy the benefits of omega-3s without having to swallow capsules, we also offer our oil in liquid form, flavored with less than 1 percent organic lemon oil to make it more palatable to fish-averse palates.
Each one-teaspoon serving of our liquid sockeye oil provides about 1.3 grams (1,300 mg) of omega-3s (360 mg EPA and 315 mg DHA), so a one-half teaspoon serving is enough to provide the daily dose (660 mg) recommended by ISSFAL. And giving children a full teaspoon is a perfectly safe, responsible thing to do to optimize their preventive health and developmental prospects.
Consider the dietary context
To avoid wasting salmon oil supplements, you should consider the amount of omega-3s you are getting from fish when calculating how many capsules to take over the course of a week.
A 3.5 oz (100 gm) serving of wild salmon provides from 660 mg (sockeye) to 1,260 mg (king) of EPA and DHA, which are the key omega-3s.
Accordingly, every 3.5 oz (100 gm) serving of wild salmon provides the amount of EPA and DHA found in three to five of our salmon oil capsules.
This means that if you plan to eat a palm-sized serving of wild salmon during the day, you can choose to skip your supplemental salmon oil, although consuming omega-3s in both forms would be nothing but beneficial.
To see how much total omega-3 occurs in each of the species we sell—halibut, sablefish, tuna, sardines, and salmon (sockeye, king, silver)—click here.
In short, the experts recommend that adults take two to four capsules per day, depending on how much fatty fish you eat each week.
Want to delve in to the details?
Here is some detailed information on the divergent omega-3 intake recommendations of the IOM and ISSFAL (click on the IOM and ISSFAL links to see the reports own which we relied to prepare this summary):
IOM Dietary Reference Intakes 2001
Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA):
- Men: 200-400 mg/day of EPA +/or DHA (i.e., an average of 300 mg/day)
- Women: 130-260 mg/day (i.e., an average of 195 mg/day).
The IOM's intake recommendations assume a diet that supplies 3,000 calories per day (see note, below*).
ISSFAL Newsletter, April 2000
Adequate intake (AI) level for long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA): 660mg/day, with a minimum of 220 mg of DHA (300mg for pregnant and lactating women) and 220 mg of EPA.
ISSFAL's intake recommendations assume a diet that supplies 2,000 calories per day.
The IOM presents its Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) recommendations in terms of percent of daily calories. The only AMDR provided for omega-3s is one for ALA—the short-chain, plant-derived omega-3—which is set at 0.6 to 1.2 percent of daily calories.
The IOM panel that composed the Dietary Reference Intakes for 2001 focused on ALA—the short-chain, plant-derived omega-3—because Americans eat so little fish. However, the body uses dietary ALA—which serves very little physiological purpose—primarily to make the long-chain “marine” omega-3s EPA and DHA.
Unlike ALA, the marine omega-3s are essential to cell membrane integrity and function, and to making the ephemeral, hormone-like messenger chemicals called eicosanoids, which regulate inflammation and many other metabolic processes.
And, the body only converts two to ten percent of dietary ALA into the long-chain “marine” omega-3s (EPA and DHA).
While the IOM panel acknowledges that long chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are far more useful to health than is ALA, this concession only extends to the extent of recommending that up to 10 percent of the AMDR for omega-3s can consist of EPA and/or DHA.
The IOM intake recommendations for men and women (shown above) result from translating the 10-percent portion of the total AMDR for omega-3s into milligrams (mg) per day.
But ISSFAL’s intake recommendation for omega-3s (660 mg per day) assumes a 3,000-calorie diet, or 50 percent more calories than IOM’s assumption of a 2,000-calorie diet.
So, to harmonize the ISSFAL recommendations with the IOM figures, one would need to increase the ISSFAL recommendations by 50 percent, from 660 mg per day to 990 mg per day, with a minimum of 330mg/day of DHA, 330mg/day of EPA, and at least 450mg/day of DHA for pregnant and lactating women.