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Choosing the Best Fish Oil

Brenda Watson, Omega-3 and Vitamin D

written by Vin Kutty

comments 7 comments

best fish oil supplement

I recently got five calls within a few hours, all with the same questions:

I knew something was up.

That something was Brenda Watson’s TV show, Heart of Perfect Health airing PBS during fund-raising drive.

Ms. Watson gives very specific advice on how to use Omega-3, enzymes, detoxes and probiotics to improve heart health’

I’ll get to the Vitamin D part in a second…

4 Things to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement

In the segment on Omega-3, she gives 4 key things to look for in a good Omega-3 product. Explains the phone calls.

I don’t know Brenda personally, but I’ve seen her every year at trade shows. She’s an excellent educator and has done a great job of focusing the viewer’s attention on gut health.

A possible eye-opener is how clearly and simply she connects poor diet and heart health to the gut. Gut health is a lot more than just being regular!

Having an opinion on all things nutrition and health, here’s my take on the 4 fish oil requirements mentioned in her show:

1. ‘Fish Oil Supplements Must Have at Least 1000 mg Omega-3 Per Pill’

Not 1000 mg of fish oil! That’s very different from 1000 mg of Omega-3. Difference explained here by Kathy Mankofsky.

Brenda Watson is absolutely right. If you’re serious about your health, you need a serious Omega-3 product, preferably one with a high EPA level.

Her suggested daily dosage is 3000 mg of Omega-3 per day. With a pill that contains at least 1000 mg Omega-3, that’d be just 3 pills.

Or as she puts it, ’10 of the regular fish oils or 30 of the red stuff,‘ referring to krill oil.

‘Krill Oil Shocker’

Most of the callers whom I spoke to were ex-krill oil users and expressed disbelief that krill oil had so little Omega-3.

I am not surprised. Marketers have spent countless millions advertising krill oil.

Before that kinda money is spent, you need ‘rationale.’ Enter focus groups.

I can almost hear fat cats in meetings saying, ‘Let’s focus group what people hate about fish oil and address those issues with a product.’

People hate fish oil because:

  • the pills are big
  • you need to take more than one
  • they sometimes smell

How do I know? I used to run these focus groups on fish oil. I’ve literally talked to thousands of people about fish oil.

Now look at the Krill oil marketing message:

Coincidence? You tell me.

Krill oil marketers found out what people hated about fish oil and turned it on its head.

Krill oil is marketed as the anti-fish-oil. Heck, the TV ads almost makes me want to switch to krill oil!


So when Brenda Watson told her PBS audience that it takes ’30 of the red stuff,’ I wanted to stand up and clap. Frankly, you probably only need 15 or 20 of the red stuff because the krill oil is better absorbed than fish oil.

Only 15 pills a day? Yes. Only.

Still, 20 krill oil pills costs about $15 per day. And people have no problem paying up. May be that’s why the largest krill oil player was just sold for $1.4 billion.

2. ‘Fish Oil Supplements Must be Enteric Coated’

This was Brenda Watson’s second Omega-3 requirement.

Enteric coating prevents odor and burping after you swallow the pill.

I agree. Fishy burping is the #1 reason why people stop taking Omega-3 supplements. That’s why OmegaVia is enteric coated.

But I think the 1000 mg Omega-3 per pill requirement is way more important.

And there is some evidence that shows enteric coated fish oil pills may provide benefits, especially to those suffering from digestive issues.*

3. ‘Fish Oil Supplements Must be IFOS Tested’

Again, I agree.

IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards) is a third-party testing lab in Canada. They test fish oils and publish results for everyone to see.

Unlike, you don’t have to pay to access IFOS test results. All products tested by IFOS are posted publicly for you to see.

OmegaVia is IFOS tested and you can see the results here.

Virtually none of the products on store shelves are tested by IFOS. There are some exceptions like Nordic Naturals and Brenda Watson’s own RenewLife brand. That’s why you’ll find me regularly recommending these two brands on this blog.

If you buy a fish oil supplement from Walmart or heck, Whole Foods Market, there is virtually no way to know how pure, potent or fresh the pills are. It’s a leap of faith.

I don’t think you need to take that leap of faith. With the internet, it is a piece of cake for companies to post their certificate of analyses on their website for all to see. But it never happens.

Why are third-party test results of purity not easily available?

  • It costs time and money.
  • It makes it easy for consumers to compare.
  • It will raise questions.
  • It may force the company to buy better oil.
  • It exposes the company to risk.

You get the idea. All of these reasons are valid.

But there are several companies, including Brenda’s and ours, who think the openness is worth the effort.

4. ‘Fish Oil Supplements Should Contain Vitamin D’

Here, I disagree.

Not because I don’t think you need Vitamin D. Oh, you need it! Lots of if. Unless you’re a shirtless lifeguard on Miami Beach, you’re not getting enough Vitamin D.

It’s not a matter of cost. Vitamin D is dirt cheap. Adding Vitamin D to fish oil adds less than a fraction of a penny to the cost of each pill.

The problem with adding Vitamin D to fish oil is that you’d either get too little or too much.

Most people need between 3000 IU and 5000 IU per day.

How much Vitamin D you need depends on many variables:

  • Your current Vitamin D status
  • How much sunlight you get
  • The time of the year and the angle of the sun’s rays
  • How much Vitamin D you get from food
  • The color of your skin (dark skin = greater sun requirement)

Blindly supplementing without testing is foolish. Vitamin D tests are cheap. Talk to your doctor and figure out your D level before you supplement.

Example: If we randomly put 2000 IU of Vitamin D into each pill, you won’t get enough if your daily fish oil dosage is 1 pill per day.

And if you’re taking 3 pills of OmegaVia, you’d be getting too much in the summer time.

You need to be in charge and in control of how much Vitamin D you are taking. More on Vitamin D here and here.


Overall, Brenda Watson’s message on Omega-3 (and gut health) is solid. I’d much rather you listen to her than Dr. Oz.

If you have not seen Brenda Watson’s PBS special, I strongly suggest you do. Not because of the Omega-3 bit – watch it because the show will open your eyes about how important gut health is. And your gut’s connection to your heart health.

As I write this, it is still on air. Google it.



*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

  1. And here it is again. Constantly I see people like Brenda that have show on PBS and I think, hmm, she probably knows a lot about this and it appears that she does, and then when I think that she is doing that because she really wants to help, I see that she is selling her own supplements. I mean the hard core truth is that we simply don’t know, we have no clue if fish oil is effective at all. All I see people that are very good in sales selling and selling and selling and selling even more. Few days ago they came up with study that fish oil doesn’t help heart at all and no help for mood, only a little bit of help for arthritis. I mean, everybody is a liar and wants to make money but doesn’t see the ethical side, only capitalistic side. My grandfather lived until he was 96. He smoked, and ate 6 eggs a day, never put a pill in his mouth and went to doctor. But he lived in healthy environment. He never ate fish (nobody did). They all ate pork and chicken (lots of bacon). And in this country everybody has this product, that product that will make you smart, that will make you live longer, that will save you, that will…….. Just a bunch of liars and cheats that only want money, money and more money. It is disgusting.

    • Your grandfather ate naturally grown food maybe out of his garden. Food was not as processed then as it is today. He probably did not eat as much sugar as we do today in so many ways. What you think?

  2. Hi, Vin,
    I use a few of Brenda’s products, and her Norwegian Gold Critical Omega (the 900mg per gelcap, no vitamin d version, blue bottle), not to be confused with the “super” critical version, gold box. It’s very pleasant to use, smells like an orange Dreamsicle, no burps, great dark packaging, but I am wondering if I should start taking the other version. I called Renew Life and was discussing their processing of the oils. I thought that both of these NGold types used supercritical CO2 methods, but was told that only the super critical version used it, not the critical. They said they used it only with the higher omega-3 (at 1100mg per gelcap), to “be able to fit that much omega-3 into a 1200mg-size gelcap.”

    I thought this was kind of funny, considering it’s only 200mg more omega-3 than the other NGold . They are both ethyl ester forms, ultimately, yet I know the CO2 is gentler on the oil and leaves fewer residues. BUT, this version costs twice as much as the critical for only 200mg more of omega-3 per gelcap. Since vitamin D is dirt cheap, the only attraction would be the CO2 extraction method. In your expert opinion, is the CO2 method better enough to warrant twice the price?

    • Hi PJ – is CO2 extraction worth TWICE the price of an equivalent non-CO2 product? Probably not. We switched OmegaVia from just molecular distillation to CO2 very recently and we did not change the price at all. CO2 oil gets ridiculously expensive if you go above 90% Omega-3 purity…I believe that is part of the problem you’re facing.

  3. Vin for children do you still recommend getting a D test before deciding to supplement for Vit d? What do you do for your kids for D? Same question but with Magnesium for children….

    Lastly- how much DHA/EPa do you recommended for children aged 10 and 12?

    • Hi Chris – I hate it when doctors poke my kids with needles. So if you don’t have to, I avoid Vit D tests on kids. With my kids, I absolutely REFUSE to apply sunscreen on them. Breaks my heart to see parents drown their kids in sunscreen…they mean well, but have no clue what it’s doing to the kids. Unless your kids are extremely pale-skinned and plan on spending the whole day naked by the pool on July 4th, there is no need for sunscreen. Get a gradual tan starting in spring, so by the time it is summer, they should be able to handle more sun without burning. If your child is brown or chocolate skinned, never ever apply sunscreen. If I see tan lines on my kids, I’m happy. It’s November 3rd as I type this and their summer tan is gone. But they should still be good and topped up on natural D till at least Christmas time. I will begin supplementing them with liquid D drops 500 or 1000 IU per day with this: it also has K2, which most kids are deficient in anyway. 10 to 12 year olds should be getting 500-1000 mg Omega-3 per day.

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