Omega-3 fatty acids confer beneficial health effects, but North Americans are lacking in their dietary omega-3-rich intake. Supplementation is an alternative to consumption of fish; however, not all omega-3 products are created equal. The trial objective was to compare the increases in blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids after consumption of four different omega-3 supplements, and to assess potential changes in cardiovascular disease risk following supplementation.
This was an open-label, randomized, cross-over study involving thirty-five healthy subjects. Supplements and daily doses (as recommended on product labels) were:
Concentrated Triglyceride (rTG) fish oil: EPA of 650 mg, DHA of 450 mg
Ethyl Ester (EE) fish oil: EPA of 756 mg, DHA of 228 mg
Phospholipid (PL) krill oil: EPA of 150 mg, DHA of 90 mg
Triglyceride (TG) salmon oil: EPA of 180 mg, DHA of 220 mg.
Subjects were randomly assigned to consume one of four products, in random order, for a 28-day period, followed by a 4-week washout period. Subsequent testing of the remaining three products, followed by 4-week washout periods, continued until each subject had consumed each of the products. Blood samples before and after supplementation were quantified for fatty acid analysis using gas chromatography, and statistically analysed using ANOVA for repeated measures.
At the prescribed dosage, the statistical ranking of the four products in terms of increase in whole blood omega-3 fatty acid levels was concentrated rTG fish oil > EE fish oil > triglyceride TG salmon oil > PL krill oil. Whole blood EPA percentage increase in subjects consuming concentrated rTG fish oil was more than four times that of krill and salmon oil. Risk reduction in several elements of cardiovascular disease was achieved to a greater extent by the concentrated rTG fish oil than by any other supplement. Krill oil and (unconcentrated) triglyceride oil were relatively unsuccessful in this aspect of the study.
For the general population, the form and dose of omega-3 supplements may be immaterial. However, given these results, the form and dose may be important for those interested in reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease.