Fish oil is the most commonly prescribed supplement in the world, for good reason: the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil pills have profound effects on heart health and cognitive function.
The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil pills exert a potent anti-inflammatory effect on your body, and have been shown to improve blood triglycerides (an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease) and boost your mood and cognitive function as well.
Our research team reviewed and ranked the best fish oil supplements on the market, plus went in-depth on the latest science behind the potential health benefits of fish oil.
Last updated: August 11, 2022
Fish oil supplements considered: 29
Hours of research: 57
Experts reviewed: 13
Scientific papers referenced: 26
1. Omegawell by Live Conscious
For those who’re serious about ending crippling joint pain, Omegawell by Live Conscious is the best you can get.
No other fish oil can compete with the patented complex of 800 EPA and 600 DHA.
What does this mean for a fish oil supplement?
EPA and DHA are the crucial macronutrients inside fish oil that help the heart, joint, brain, organ tissue, and immune system. Among all the fatty acids, EPA and DHA are the most potent.
From alleviating joint pain to providing your body more energy and focus, Omegawell is one of the better daily habits you can have in the supplement space.
No filler “additives.” All natural, and made in the USA in an FDA-approved facility.
The all-around fish oil winner of 2022.
2. Optima Omega-3 by Nuzena
Nuzena is a brand-new supplement company known for their no-nonsense formulas.
Nuzena’s Optima Omega-3 “formula” stands out as one of better omega-3 and fish oil formulas. Some of the other fish oils on this list have higher EPA/DHA levels, but are twice as expensive and/or not as high in quality.
(Nuzena gets their stuff tested monthly for mercury levels, potency, etc., so you know it’s a quality product).
Better skin. Better well-being. Better joints and flexibility.
A no-nonsense top-3 option and one of the cheapest options, too.
3. Viva Labs Ultra Strength Fish Oil
If you want a fish oil supplement that really packs a punch, look no further than Via Labs Ultra Strength. Each capsule provides a full 1000 mg of omega 3 fatty acids, and 705 mg and 245 mg of EPA and DHA.
This very high omega 3 content makes it an excellent pick for raw omega 3 content, and its super-minimalist formulation (no flavors, no additives) makes it well-suited for people who appreciate clean supplement design.
4. Nature’s Branch Triple Strength Fish Oil
Although not as powerful as our winner, Nature’s Branch is backed up by its quality.
Each softgel has 720 mg of fish oil, 432 mg of EPA, and 288 mg of DHA. It’s a high dose fish oil that’s also got natural lemon flavoring to mask some of the fishy flavor, so it’s a good choice for people who don’t like the smell of pure, unflavored fish oil.
5. The Vitamin Shoppe Omega-3 Fish Oil
The Vitamin Shoppe’s fish oil offering is really simple, but the dosage of the most impactful compounds leaves a bit to be desired: it’s got 1000 mg of fish oil, but only 300 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA per capsule.
If a super-high dosage is less critical for you, it’s a decent choice thanks to its pure formulation.
6. OmegaVia Fish Oil
OmegaVia focuses on delivering an extraordinarily high concentration of EPA and DHA. These super-compounds make up over 95% of the omega-3 fatty acid content in the supplement.
As you’d expect, the mercury and PCB levels are also extremely low thanks to regular purity testing. The only downside? A few too many fillers in the capsule composition.
7. Dr. Tobias Optimum Omega 3 Fish Oil
The overall fish oil content in Dr. Tobias Omega 3 is high, but the EPA and DHA content is only middle-of-the-road. For that reason, it wound up further down in the rankings, even though the purity and quality of the ingredients are great.
8. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3
Nordic Naturals has a ton of name recognition, but its formulation isn’t quite as advanced as some of its competitors. The fish oil content is good, but the EPA and DHA content (325 and 225 mg each) isn’t quite as high as our research team would like.
However, their sourcing is great: their fish oil comes from deep sea fish (anchovies and sardines), and that each batch is tested for toxin contents, so from a purity perspective, it’s great.
9. WHC UnoCardio 1000+
This omega 3 fish oil boasts a hefty amount of EPA and DHA—670 and 395 mg per capsule, respectively, and the sourcing is very solid too: wild-caught sardine, herring, mackerel, and anchovy.
Though other supplements beat it out on total fish oil content, it does have vitamin D to boost mood and immune function, so it’s a good niche pick for people in cold climates who don’t see much sun.
10. Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil
Nature’s Bounty is a common sight at brick and mortar pharmacies. How does it hold up?
Dosage-wise, it’s good but not great. Each softgel provides 750 mg of omega 3 fatty acids; of these, 435 mg are EPA and 240 mg are DHA. Compared to other competitors, it loses out when it comes to total fish oil content.
Best fish oil overall: Omegawell by Live Conscious
Omegawell by Live Conscious is pure, high-dosage, and free of extraneous ingredients. What more can you want in a fish oil supplement? If you want an all-around winner, this should be your go-to choice.
Best fish oil for older adults: Optima Omega-3 by Nuzena
Optima Omega-3 is strict, simple, and tested for purity. That’s great news for older adults, who also benefit from the additional flexibility in dosage provided by Nuzena’s 430/290 EPA/DHA capsules.
Best fish oil for women: Nature’s Branch Triple Strength Fish Oil
Nature’s Branch Triple Strength Fish Oil is great for women, because Nature’s Branch puts a particular focus on purity. Thanks to third party testing, it’s certified free of potential contaminants like mercury, PCBs, and dioxins—great news for all women, but especially for women who are pregnant.
Best fish oil for cognitive health: Omegawell by Live Conscious
Omegawell is great for cognitive health because of its nearly 1:1 ratio of EPA and DHA, both of which are vital for cognitive function. Add to that independently-verified purity and you’ve got a big winner for brain function.
Best fish oil for heart health: Viva Labs Ultra Strength Fish Oil
When it comes to heart health, the latest research suggests that getting a high dosage of DHA and EPA is critical. That’s why Viva Labs is our pick for cardiovascular health: its DHA and EPA content per capsule are at the front of the pack.
Best fish oil for athletes: Omegawell by Live Conscious
In addition to its cardiovascular and cognitive health benefits, fish oil sees increasing use among athletes who want to take advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties for pain and inflammation. The even balance of EPA and DHA in Omegawell is the perfect choice for this use-case.
Who should buy fish oil?
Fish oil is one of the most versatile supplements out there: it’s got solid evidence supporting its use for everything from heart health to mental health to joint inflammation. Here are the major categories of people who should consider a fish oil supplement:
People who want to improve their heart health: Fish oil’s most heavily-studied application is reducing cardiovascular disease risk. The omega-3s in fish oil has been shown to improve blood triglycerides and decrease blood pressure, both of which are major risk factors for heart disease (1).
Older adults who want to preserve cognitive function: The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil have made it the target of researchers looking to slow or prevent cognitive decline in older adults, and research suggests that people who take fish oil preserve both brain size and brain function better as they age (2).
People who want to combat depression and anxiety: One of the most exciting but least-publicized benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are their ability to improve both depression and anxiety. The scientific evidence supporting both of these applications is shockingly robust (3,4), so if mental wellbeing is a goal for you, fish oil should be in your supplement stack.
People who want to cut down on inflammation: inflammation in the body contributes to problems ranging from obesity to joint pain to vascular disease. Fish oil’s anti-inflammatory properties are well-documented, making it a versatile supplement for cutting down on systemic inflammation.
How we ranked
Given the popularity of fish oil, we started with a huge pool of products, so we applied a string of strict criteria for identifying high-quality products.
Good manufacturing and independently-verified purity: First off, we wanted to check that fish oil products weren’t contaminated with heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, or other contamination?
These contaminants tend to accumulate in fish in much higher concentrations than are found in ocean water naturally, so it’s critical to verify that our top fish oil products were screened for these pollutants.
This eliminated some high-profile brands like Puritan’s Pride and Kirkland Signature, since third-party testing found these products contained more contaminants than their competitors.
High per-capsule dose of omega-3 fatty acids: Some companies play tricks with their dosage by quoting the fish oil or omega-3 content of one “serving,” meaning two or three capsules. To level the playing field, we compared dosage on a per-capsule basis.
We looked not just at fish oil content, but at total omega-3 fatty acid content. Some lower-quality brands like GNC Fish Oil had good fish oil content but only middling omega-3 fatty acid content, so they got axed.
A high fraction of EPA and DHA: Emerging research suggests that the biggest factor affecting the efficacy of a fish oil supplement is its EPA and DHA content.
(EPA and DHA stand for eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, two key components in fish oil).
Based on this evidence, we rated supplements higher if a high fraction of their total omega-3 content was made up of EPA and DHA. This propelled products like Viva Labs and Omegawell high up in the rankings, thanks to their incredibly potent formulations.
Quality sourcing: Lastly, we paid close attention to where the fish oil came from. Better-quality fish oil comes from wild-caught fish, not farm-raised fish, so we rewarded products with specific sourcing information.
The omega-3s in Mediterranean-style diets lead to an increased survival rate from cardiovascular disease, which spurred a huge raft of research on the heart health benefits of fish oil supplements.
Fish oil can help reduce blood triglycerides and systemic inflammation. Two of the main drivers of heart health are low triglycerides and low systemic inflammation, and fish oil can aid in both.
Two studies on fish oil supplements found that fish oil supplements produce a statistically significant decrease in blood triglycerides (6,7), while other research points to fish oil’s anti-inflammatory capabilities as contributing to its vascular health benefits (8).
Fish oil can lower blood pressure. When it comes to boosting heart health, dropping triglycerides is not all that fish oil does. Research published in the American Journal of Hypertension reviewed 70 different studies and found that fish oil supplementation reduces both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (9).
Fish oil can boost cognitive function and slow cognitive decline. Given the powerful anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil, its cognitive benefits should come as no surprise.
A 2010 study found that a 900 mg daily dose of DHA over a span of 6 months enhanced memory and learning in those with age-related cognitive decline (10), while another review study found evidence from observational studies suggesting omega 3 fatty acids can preserve cognitive function (11).
Even better, a 2017 study found that people with the APOE4 gene (the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease) showed higher uptake of DHA in brain regions associated with cognitive decline, and connected lower serum DHA levels with brain plaque formation (12).
Omega-3 fatty acids could boost the health benefits to your baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding. DHA plays role in pregnancy outcomes such as birth weight, pregnancy duration and neurocognitive function of the infant (13, 14).
Additionally, higher levels of DHA and EPA in breastmilk are associated with improved hand-eye coordination in infants (15). Common doses used in these studies range from 400 mg to 2000 mg per day, higher than what is available in most prenatal multi-vitamins.
Most studies of fish oil find no side effects at all. Of the 300+ studies reviewed in one paper, over half reported zero adverse effects caused by fish oil (16).For such a powerful supplement, fish oil is pretty safe. Still, there are a few things to watch out for.
Don’t take fish oil with blood thinners. Both omega-3s as well as blood thinners reduce the ability of the body to clot which may lead to excessive bleeding during surgery or injury.
Fish oil might cause bloating, gas, or burping. The most common side effects of fish oil are mild gastrointestinal symptoms: burping, bloating, gas, etc. (17). Enterically-coated fish oil supplements can reduce the incidence of upper GI symptoms like burping since the product is designed to resist digestion until it reaches the small intestine.
Lower-quality fish oil might be contaminated with mercury, dioxins, or PCBs. These compounds are common contaminants which have been shown to damage the nervous system or cause cancer. Fortunately, high-quality fish oils like our top-ranked products are tested for the presence of all of these contaminants.
Oxidized fish oil loses its potency. Oxygen exposure damages omega-3 fatty acids, so keep your fish oil supplements in a closed container away from heat and light.
Healthy people should aim for at least one gram of fish oil per day, and possibly up to three. Most studies on the clinical and health benefits of fish oil use between one and three grams of fish oil per day. The American Heart Association recommends one to three grams per day, though other studies have used higher doses (18,19).
A higher dose of two to four grams of fish oil is needed to lower blood triglycerides. For cutting down on unhealthy blood triglycerides, you’ll need a higher dose than a healthy person, in the range of two to four grams per day.
Aim for as much of your fish oil as possible to come from EPA and DHA. These two omega-3 fatty acids are the most potent ingredients in fish oil, and research suggests that the higher the EPA and DHA content of your fish oil supplement, the better your body’s response from a heart-health perspective (20).
Supplements vary a lot in EPA and DHA content, even for the same fish oil amount, so be sure to grab a high-quality one that are high in these key ingredients.
If you can, aim for 800 to 1800 mg total of DHA + EPA. These numbers are based on the ranges of EPA and DHA dosages in the studies we’ve reviewed above, and while research is still ongoing on the optimal ratio, the total amount of both does seem to be particularly impactful on fish oil’s efficacy.
Q: What is fish oil good for?
A: Fish oil can reduce blood pressure and the concentration of harmful triglycerides in the blood (which are both great for heart health).
Fish oil is also a powerful anti-inflammatory, helping it fight everything from joint pain to cognitive decline.
Fish oil can even improve mental wellness by reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety, though the mechanism for this impressive feat are still unclear (21).
Q: How much fish oil per day should you take?
A: The American Heart Association currently recommends one gram of fish oil per day, though other research suggests that a dose of more like two to four grams per day is optimal for lowering blood triglycerides (22).
However, it’s not just about the raw fish oil dose; you’ve also got to pay attention to the EPA and DHA content.
The most successful studies on fish oil have used doses that total 800-1800 mg of EPA and DHA (combined), so aim for a fish oil supplement that’s high in both of these power ingredients.
Q: How much fish oil is too much?
A: The American Heart Association recommends not taking more than three grams total of omega 3 fatty acids per day without talking to a doctor first (23).
At very high doses, fish oil can increase the risk of bleeding in some people. Do keep in mind that one gram of fish oil likely contains less than one gram of omega-3 fatty acids: the three gram per day recommendation applies to the omega-3 fatty acid content, not the total fish oil content
Q: What is fish oil?
A: Fish oil is a concentrated form of the unsaturated fats that are found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as in other marine oil sources like krill oil.
These unsaturated fats are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. While fish oil is technically just an edible oil like olive oil, the health benefits of these omega-3 fatty acids are the source of fish oil’s substantial benefits.
Even among the omega-3 fatty acids, two are by far the most important: EPA and DHA. These two molecules alone likely account for most or all of the benefit of fish oil.
Q: Does fish oil have benefits for your skin?
A: Though the potential cardiovascular and cognitive benefits of fish oil tend to steal the spotlight, fish oil has been used as a clinical treatment for psoriasis since at least the 1980s.
One study demonstrated a significant improvement in psoriasis symptoms after eight weeks of fish oil supplementation (24).
Other research has found that fish oil can actually increase the content of omega-3 fatty acid in your skin cells, which might explain the mechanism of action by which fish oil can improve skin quality (25).
Q: When should you take fish oil?
A: In the morning or in the evening are both great times to take fish oil. Fish oil is a fairly long-lasting compound, so it is typically taken in just one or two doses during the day. When you take fish oil (as in morning, afternoon, or evening) is not as important as taking it on a regular basis.
Some evidence suggests that fish oil alongside a meal that has a high fat content can help boost the absorption of EPA and DHA, so you can incorporate this strategy if you really want to maximize your omega-3 levels (26).
Q: What are EPA and DHA in fish oil?
A: EPA and DHA are acronyms for eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid—these two chemicals are specific examples of omega-3 fatty acids. They have been studied in the most detail out of the omega-3 fatty acids (there are others, such as alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, which you can find in abundant quantities in sources like flax oil).
There is also substantial clinical evidence to support the health benefits of EPA and DHA: these compounds are so potent that purified version are under development as prescription medications to treat heart disease.
Fish oil is an incredibly potent supplement with a wide range of benefits: heart health, cognitive function, mental wellness, and systemic inflammation.
Aim for a fish oil supplement that delivers at least one gram of omega-3 fatty acids per day, and ideally two or three grams. Try to keep the omega-3 content as high as possible, and ditto for the EPA and DHA content: some studies use doses of 0.8-2 grams of EPA+DHA, not just total fish oil!
Thanks to the wide range of potential health benefits and the excellent safety profile, fish oil is one of the best types of supplements on the market if you are looking to invest in your long-term health and wellness.
For Alpha XR‘s #1 fish oil recommendation, click here.