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How to find the ultimate omega-3 supplement

How much omega-3 and from what sources  |  Different types of omega-3 and their conversion  |  Algae VS. Fish Oil  |  EPA:DHA Ratio  |  Minimize pollution risks  |  Sustainable sourcing  |  Processing method  |  Bioavailability  |  Antioxidants for protection  |  Additives  |  Lab-tests  |  Conclusion

You might associate omega-3 with a big piece of salmon on a veggie bowl, or herring from your local herring stand. They are why the Nutrition Center recommends eating fatty fish at least once a week. But whether you can't get enough of your sushi salmon roll, or you don't like fish at all, omega-3 and its benefits should definitely be on your radar.


The benefits of omega 3

Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) is often touted as supporting a healthy heart, but it is also good for vision and contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function. Even maternal intake of DHA plays a role in brain function in the fetus and breastfed infants. EPA and DHA support normal blood pressure and help maintain normal triglyceride levels in the blood. 

Here's what you need to know about the most valuable sources of omega-3 and how to make sure you get enough daily.


Omega-3 food sources

Fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, mackerel, herring, and sardines are excellent dietary sources of EPA and DHA. Wild-caught salmon and herring undoubtedly top the list, offering a robust dose of omega-3 fatty acids—approximately 2.7 grams per 100-gram serving. Sardines boasts an impressive 2.6 grams in the same portion. Mackerel contribute around 2.2 grams per 100-gram serving, while anchovies follow closely behind at 2 grams.

How much do you need?

To date, there is no official recommended daily allowance for EPA and DHA. However, most health organisations agree that 250–500 mg of combined EPA and DHA is enough for adults to maintain their overall health. To meet the recommended daily intake of omega-3s, aim for one to two servings of these fatty fish per week. Incorporating fatty fish ensures you meet the daily goal of about 500 mg of combined DHA and EPA.

But what if you don't like fatty fish? Or what if you don't have access to clean fish sources and are concerned about pollution? Or what if you want to exceed the daily dose of 500 mg of DHA and EPA, but don't want to eat fish more than twice a week? This is where a clean omega-3 supplement comes in handy.

Lately, there has been a lot of controversy about omega-3 supplements and their rancidity. Fish oil is highly susceptible to oxidation. Oxidized oils can have altered biological activity, making them ineffective or even harmful. [*] However, whether oxidized fish oil is really harmful is yet to be determined. Until now, a few studies have shown that rancid fish oil can adversely affect cholesterol levels. [*]

So, if you are looking for the ultimate omega-3 source but are worried about contamination, rancidity, and sustainability, this blog is for you. We explore how to find a bioavailable, clean, non-oxidised, and sustainable omega-3 supplement.

But first, let's explain the different types of omega-3 and their conversion.


Omega-3 forms and their conversion

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that plays a crucial role in various physiological processes in our bodies. There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids, with the three main ones being alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Stearidonic acid (SDA) is another omega-3 fatty acid that is less commonly discussed but is also important.

Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA):

    • Source: ALA is primarily found in plant-based sources, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and certain vegetable oils (flaxseed oil).
    • Conversion: The body's ability to convert ALA into EPA, and even to a lesser extent DHA, is limited. 

Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA):

    • Source: EPA is found in marine sources, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies.
    • Conversion: EPA is an active form of omega-3, meaning your body can use it directly for various processes.

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA):

    • Source: Like EPA, DHA is abundant in fatty fish and seafood. It is also found in algae, the primary food source of DHA for fish.
    • Conversion: DHA is the other active form of omega-3. Your body can use it directly for several processes.

Stearidonic Acid (SDA):

    • Source: SDA is found in certain plant-based oils, like hemp oil. It is also found in zooplankton (also known as Calanus finmarchicus). You will learn more about zooplankton later. 
    • Conversion: SDA is a precursor to EPA. The body can convert SDA into EPA more efficiently than it converts ALA into EPA. This makes SDA a potentially more effective omega-3 source.


The case for omega-3 from fish

You might be thinking, since algae is the primary DHA food source for fish, why not go straight to the source and take an algae oil? However, this is a little more nuanced. Fish are good at converting DHA into EPA. This is why the EPA content in fish is higher than in algae. We, humans, however, are not good at converting DHA into EPA.

Fish also contains a broad spectrum of omega fatty acids, making it a complex source of omega-3. In contrast, algae oil is an incomplete source of omega-3; it contains only DHA and a little EPA. As you will discover below, you need both, and in the right ratio. For this reason, we focus in this blog primarily on omega-3 from fish and crustaceans.


EPA:DHA ratio

At this point, you know that EPA and DHA are the active forms of omega-3. Like many other nutrients, they are related and function best in a certain ratio. The ideal ratio of EPA and DHA can vary depending on individual health goals and circumstances. In general, a balanced ratio between EPA and DHA (ideally close to 1:1) is considered important for overall health. 

NoordCode's Ultimate Omega Formula contains a broad spectrum of omega-3 fatty acids from zooplankton (Calanus finmarchicus). It provides you with 139 mg of EPA and 101 mg of DHA and is almost a 1:1 ratio. In addition, it contains 148 mg of SDA. So in total, it contains 446 mg of omega-3 fatty acids for a daily dose. 



If you have scanned the label of NoordCode Ultimate Omega Formula, you probably noticed that it contains policosanols and cetoloic acid (omega 11).

Policosanols have recently gained interest due to promising research findings to their benefits. They are normally found in seeds and plants. Calanus oil with 40% of its composition is a rare marine source of these fatty alcohols.

Cetoloic acid is another compound of interest with research to the benefits ongoing, which is why it is specified on the label as well.

Now that we have covered the different omega-3 fatty acids, let's move on to other important factors related to supplementation, such as bioavailability, oxidation, contamination, and sustainability.


Minimize pollution risks

Minimizing contamination in fish and seafood is achieved by considering the following two factors: the source of the omega-3 and the size/life span of the fish. Spoiler: this goes hand in hand.

Sourcing from clean waters

Oceans are polluted, which makes the origin of omega-3 so important. Norwegian fish oil is highly valued and has a good reputation around the world for good reason. This is based on the country's clean coastal waters, its history, and experience in producing it. But also on Norwegian’s strict quality control of fish oil. By contrast, in other countries, such as the U.S., there are no quality standards for fish oil production.


Moving on to the second factor: older, larger fish are more likely to be contaminated by environmental pollution. This phenomenon is known as biomagnification or bioaccumulation. It occurs when certain substances, such as toxins or pollutants, become more concentrated in organisms as you move up the food chain. Here's how it generally works:

  1. Introduction of pollutants:

Pollutants, such as heavy metals (e.g., mercury), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), or pesticides, enter aquatic environments through various human activities like industrial discharges, agriculture runoff, or atmospheric deposition.

  1. Absorption by aquatic organisms:

The lower levels of the food chain, like algae and (zoo)plankton, absorb these pollutants from the water.

  1. Bioaccumulation in small organisms:

Small fish and invertebrates eat the algae and (zoo)plankton, accumulating a certain level of pollutants in their tissues. However, the concentration is usually not high at this stage.

  1. Biomagnification in higher trophic levels:

As larger fish and predators consume smaller organisms, they not only take in the pollutants present in their prey but also the accumulated pollutants. The concentration of these pollutants increases as you move up the food chain.

  1. Accumulation in top predators:

Top predators, which are often larger and older fish, accumulate the highest concentrations of pollutants because they consume a large number of contaminated prey over their lifespan.

  1. Human consumption:

If we consume these larger and older fish, they may be exposed to higher levels of contaminants, like microplastics and heavy metals. 

Therefore, look for omega-3 supplements from lower down the food chain, such as smaller fish, like anchovies, sardines, and krill. NoordCode's Ultimate Omega Formula goes one step further in reducing the risk of contamination. Zooplankton (calanus), from which it is derived, has a lifespan of 1 year. It is at the bottom of the food chain, where it thrives on phytoplankton and energy from photosynthesis. Therefore it contains very low levels of environmental contaminants. 


Sustainable sourcing


Why avoid krill oil supplements

As krill oil becomes increasingly popular as a supplement, it is also starting to attract more attention because of its environmental impact. Krill are the food of whales, penguins, and seals and provide iron and other nutrients that fertilize the ocean. The high demands of the supplement industry have drastically reduced their numbers. As you can imagine, this is devastating for Antarctica's ecosystem. If you want to dive deep into this topic, we recommend this article from The Guardian.


That's why you're better off with a sustainably harvested fish oil or zooplankton supplement. Look for specific certifications such as MSC or Friends of the Sea to ensure that the fish comes from healthy fisheries and is sourced according to strict standards for fishing methods and bycatch reduction. You can also look for a brand that uses fish waste for its omega-3 sources. 

Zooplankton, a sustainable source

We talked earlier about zooplankton's lifespan of 1 year. Unlike krill, its population is regenerated every year. In fact, it is one of the largest renewable resources in the Norwegian Sea. This makes zooplankton a highly sustainable omega-3 source. Because it feeds on plants and has no heart, it can be a considerable source of omega-3 for vegetarians. 

Zooplankton is caught using an eco-friendly trawling system to minimize bycatch.


Processing method

Fish oil is actually an omega-3 concentrate extract. It is the result of a long processing chain and is therefore quite processed. Most of us are aware of the processes involved in making seed oils, which compared to making olive oil - requiring only the pressing of an olive - are quite laborious. You could draw a similar parallel between fish oil and calanus oil because of the low processing method that calanus oil from zooplankton requires. Here's why.

The zooplankton is frozen directly on the boat to ensure freshness. During processing, nothing is added and nothing is removed from the zooplankton. No chemicals are used in the production of the oil. The only input besides energy and fresh water is minimal addition of enzymes. This process is done without solvents and additives, and provides gentle extraction of both lipids and proteins (hydrolysate). No further refining, concentration, or processing takes place.

Because it is so low processed, NoordCode's Ultimate Omega Formula is closest to eating fresh fish versus other omega-3 supplements. Plus, it comes without the accumulation of toxins.



With a plethora of omega-3 supplements available, how do you ensure you're choosing the one that your body can utilize most effectively? The form in which omega-3 is consumed makes here a difference. The journey of omega-3 from its source to your cells varies significantly across different forms such as triglycerides, ethyl esters, phospholipids, and wax esters. Let's dive into the science of bioavailability.

Triglycerides and ethyl esters

Most omega-3 supplements begin as triglycerides. Through a series of chemical modifications, they are transformed into ethyl esters and then possibly back into triglycerides. This restructuring affects how well our bodies can absorb these nutrients. Triglycerides, in their restructured form, are meant to improve the release of omega-3 into your system more effectively compared to ethyl esters.


Krill oil stands out due to its phospholipid structure. Phospholipids are absorbed faster and higher in the intestinal tract than traditional triglycerides.

Algae oil supplements can be found in both triglyceride and phospholipid forms. 


Wax esters

Calanus oil comes in a wax ester form. Wax esters digest more slowly, releasing omega-3s further along the digestive tract. This unique mechanism not only supports sustained absorption but also offers potential benefits, as evidenced by recent research highlighting its capacity to significantly increase the omega-3 index in the body.

Calanus oil has demonstrated double the absorption rates of EPA and DHA into blood plasma when compared to fish oil concentrate. In a 2016 study, participants took a dosage of EPA and DHA through either 416 mg of calanus oil or 840 mg of concentrated fish oil. Researchers monitored the levels of EPA and DHA in plasma over 72 hours, revealing astonishing results.

Building on this short-term data, several studies have now confirmed the long-term advantages of adding Calanus oil to your diet. Researchers like Wasserfurth et al. (2020), Burhup et al. (2022), and Vosskotter et al. (2023) have documented these benefits. Their findings highlight a significant increase in the omega-3 index, a key marker of omega-3 levels in your body, compared to traditional marine oils from fish and krill.


Antioxidants for protection

We discussed the issue of rancidity within the context of the manufacturing process. To produce materials sensitive to oxidation, such as omega-3, efforts are made to minimize exposure to oxygen, light and other pro-oxidants. Often antioxidants are added to improve stability, such as vitamin E or rosemary.

Astaxanthin as a natural preservative

Krill and Calanus oil supplements are naturally preserved thanks to the high concentration of astaxanthin in the raw material. However, Calanus oil contains 20 times more astaxanthin than Krill. 

Astaxanthin acts as a preservative. This eliminates the need to add additional antioxidants or other components to stabilize. Besides being a preservative, astaxanthin has other benefits. For skin appearance, it has the following effects: 

  • Helps keep skin looking young. 
  • Supports normal hydration of the skin. 
  • Supports the normal elasticity of the skin. 
  • Supports the normal structure of the skin. 


Without additives

It is quite difficult to find a fish or krill oil on the market that is formulated without unnecessary additives. You often find formulas that use sunflower oil as a carrier. With supplements containing algal oil, the capsules are also usually a concern. They are made of GMO starch and carrageenan. 

NoordCode's Ultimate Omega Formula contains only active ingredients. The capsule is made of fish gelatin and is a halal-certified alternative to gelatin derived from other sources.



Last but not least, always choose brands that are transparent about their test results. For omega-3 supplements, these are the tests you can look out for: 

  • Heavy metals
  • PCBs
  • Dioxins
  • TOTOX score or peroxide value

The first three are related to environmental pollution. The TOTOX score has to do with oxidation and is based on two values: 2xPV(Peroxide value) + AV(Anicidine value).

The peroxide numbers in NoordCode's Ultimate Omega Formula are batch-tested and available upon request. It is not possible to provide a full TOTOX score for Calanus oil due to the very high astaxanthin content that interferes with the AV method. We do regularly measure other oxidation parameters to ensure that the oil has good storage stability and does not oxidize. We also test for microbiological contaminants, heavy metals and other environmental toxins. 

Ultimate Omega Formula

If you are looking for a bioavailable, complete omega-3 supplement and are concerned about oxidation and contamination, NoordCode's Ultimate Omega Formula is for you. It has a unique broad-spectrum lipid profile and is naturally high in astaxanthin. Because it is so little processed and contains no additives, it is the closest thing to eating fresh fish compared to other omega-3 supplements.

From a sustainable and ethical point of view, it meets all requirements. Not only is NoordCode Ultimate Omega Friends of the Sea certified, the zooplankton's low position in the food chain and its ability to regenerate itself every year, makes it an environmentally and ethically responsible omega-3 source.

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