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Fish, krill, calamari? Which one do you need?

Which fish oil is best?

This is a question I get asked a lot. With so many fish oils on the market, in different sizes and formulations, not to mention krill oil and calamari oil, no wonder it is hard to work out which one to buy.

There are many things to consider. What condition are you taking it for?  Heart, Brain, Eyes, Joints, PMS or eczema. Where does the fish oil come from, is it from clean seas, is it from a sustainable source, how fresh is it? Do you need to worry about mercury or heavy metal contamination? Regardless of all of that, how much do you need, and what is value for money.

Today I will attempt to sort through the mass of confusing information to help you make the best choice,however, as with all things to do with nutrition, we are all different, and so one size does not fit all!

The Western diet rarely provides the correct ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats, even if you eat three serves of oily fish per week.  Omega 3 fats are essential fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory. Our body can not make them so we must consume them in our diet. I normally advocate getting nutrients from food rather than supplements, but in the case of Omega 3’s, a supplement is cheaper and easier.

You can also get omega 3’s from plant sources such as flaxseed, however this form has to be converted to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)  and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) in the body, a very inefficient process. A fish oil supplement is a good way to get enough omega 3s.

So how much omega 3  EPA and DHA do you need?

There is no RDI (recommended daily intake) in Australia (or anywhere else for that matter) for omega 3 fatty acids. Arthritis Victoria states that people suffering from joint pain should take 2.7gms of omega 3 per day. The heart foundation recommends 1000mg per day for existing heart conditions and 500mg per day for prevention.  But how about other conditions? Only your nutritionist can help you decide an effective dose.

In my experience buying cheap fish oil is false economy. Many of the cheaper fish oils are topped up with inferior filler oils.   A therapeutic dose, ie. A dose that will actually bring about positive change rather than maintaining the status quo, requires a concentrated form, or several capsules.  Buying in bulk is also a bad idea. Fish oil is naturally quite unstable and only fresh for 30 days. Many producers add vitamin E a fat soluble antioxidant to reduce deterioration, and extend the shelf life. DO not buy a fish oil product that does not have vitamin e (tocopherols) in it.  I suggest you buy fish oil in small quantities, enough for one month at a time. This helps to ensure freshness.  Another good tip is to keep them in the fridge and away from daylight. If your fish oil capsules or liquid start to have a strong offensive fishy smell, you know they are past their best and need to be thrown out.

Fish, Krill or Calamari?

That depends on who you ask. The makers of fish oil, say fish oil is best, krill oil makers advocate krill and so on.  Each source is good for different reasons.

Here is a summary:

Fish Oil

  • Scientifically proven (1000’s of trials) and many years of safe use
  • 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA per 1000mg capsule, 3 triglyceride form
  • Possible heavy metal exposure eg Mercury
  • The source is important. Also check  fish type to ensure sustainability
  • Generally cheaper

Krill Oil

  • Smaller capsule
  • 50% more potent that fish oil
  • Already in phospholipid form making it better absorbed and more bio-available (useable by the body)
  • Studies show Krill is absorbed 10-15 times better than fish oil
  • Best for arthritis, works in half the time of fish oil
  • No fishy taste
  • Contains Astaxantin, a built in antioxidant, acts as a natural preservative
  • Krill is lower on  the food chain, so heavy metal risk is lower, if at all
  • More expensive


  • More DHA than EPA
  • Certain studies suggest that DHA is more important than EPA for many conditions including heart and brain conditions.
  • Fast growing and short lifespan limits heavy metal exposure
  • Better for the environment as off cuts from food grade calamari used to process oil
  • The jury is still out – not a lot of scientific study about effectiveness.

Fish oil is widely available and its benefits are scientifically proven. Please buy the best you can afford, and buy small quantities at a time. Bulk products will deteriorate before you can use them and do more harm than good.  Fish oil can benefit most of us, but given 80-85% is never absorbed, instead passing through the body,  a higher dose or concentrated product may be required. It is best to seek professional guidance as to the right dose for you.

Krill oil has less EPA and DHA than fish oil, but it is better absorbed, meaning you don’t need as much, and the capsules are smaller, making them easier to take. The antioxidant astaxanthin  found in Krill oil has many benefits besides preserving the product. As to whether fish or krill is more sustainable, it probably depends on what fish are used in the product you choose. This is not usually immediately obvious without contacting the company.  Sardines and anchovies are safe sources, large fish less so, due to the possible contamination of mercury.

The makers of calamari oil claim superiority due to the higher ratio of DHA, but effectiveness is yet to be scientifically proven.

A product that combines fish and krill, or krill and calamari might be a way to hedge your bets until further research can be done. In the meanwhile fish oil is one of my favourite supplements as it provides anti-inflammatory support, and as we know inflammation is at the root of all disease.  See if fish oil could help your condition*

* Caution – if you are on blood thinning medications seek medical advice before consuming fish oil.


Further reading

Comparison chart of fish oils available in Australia

Conditions helped by Omega 3 fatty acids