Pharmaceutical-Grade Brands of Fish Oil

Fish oil spilling from bottle
Fish oil tablets spilling out of a bottle. (Image: chinaview/iStock/Getty Images)

You may not have known that there are a few different “grades” of fish oil. Pharmaceutical grade is the purest form of fish oil, containing the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acid as well as DHA and EPA (essential fatty acids). Unlike the lesser grades of fish oil, the process of making pharmaceutical-grade fish oil assures greater purity than often found in food-grade fish oil brands.

Getting Started

Clinical studies have produced considerable data to support the effectiveness of omega-3 and EPA/DHA in promoting health, especially those that come from fish sources. There is no single definition of “pharmaceutical grade.” So instead of just looking for the words "pharmaceutical grade" in the fish oil product description, look at the potency of each product. Typically, to be considered pharmaceutical grade, the total omega-3 content of the fish oil should be 1,000mg per capsule, with 300mg EPA and 200mg DHA.

Pharmaceutical-grade fish oil is more pure, and therefore more expensive, due to the strict specifications of its production. Plus, it takes 100 gallons of health food-grade fish oil to make one gallon of the ultra-refined pharmaceutical grade fish oil. Fish oil supplements are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so do your homework before making a purchase. You can check independent research laboratories such as www.consumerlabs.com, which has tested and reviewed 52 fish oil brands for potency and safety.

Molecularly Distilled Fish Oils

These are considered to be the purest and safest, because this process removes nearly all of the unhealthy contaminants and toxins from the fish oil. Some of these, however, still could have lower levels of EPA and DHA, so check the label. Among the brands that are advertised as being molecularly distilled, Xtendlife is widely viewed as the best fish oil supplement on the market. It’s derived from the Hoki fish, which comes from the deep, unpolluted waters of New Zealand. There's also Nutra Origin, Harvest Moon, NOW, Spring Valley, Natrol Omega-3, Super Omega-3, Nature’s Bounty, Meijer Naturals, Nature’s Way and Vitamin Shoppe.

Higher-Potency Fish Oils

Fish oils don’t necessarily have to be molecularly distilled to ensure potency and quality. Among fish oils that are popular and have an EPA/DHA content of 1,000 mg or more: Omapure Omega-3; NutraOrigin; Liquid Omega; Maxi-Omega-3; Unicity OmegaLife-3; Nordic Naturals; CardioStat Omega-3 Fish Oil; Focus Factor; Factor Nutrition Labs Omega-3; Omega-3 Factor; and Nature’s Benefit.

Lower-Potency Fish Oils

These fish oils have lower levels of EPA/DHA but are still considered pharmaceutical grade: Minami Nutrition USA MorEPA; Omega-3 Complex Sealogix; Dr. Murray’s RxOmega-3 Factors; Barleans Signature Fish Oil; Natural Factors RxOmega-3; Natrilite Ocean Essentials Heart Health; Coromega Omega-3 Focus Formula; Fish Smart Ultra (5-star rating); PFO Pure Fish Oil; Jamieson Omega Protect Salmon Oil; Rainbow Light Just Once Everyone’s Omega; Ultramarine Omega-3; Wellements PharmaOmega Cardio Omega-3 Softgels; and
Omega Brite.

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