When Is The Best Time Of Day To Take Fish Oil? Experts Answer


When it comes to fish oil, the specific time of day doesn’t seem to matter as much as the types of food you pair your supplement with. “The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been shown to be better absorbed when taken with a fat-containing meal rather than on an empty stomach,”* says Heimowitz.

Avena agrees: “This can increase the bioavailability of the omega-3s, meaning that you are more likely to absorb them.”*

It’s worth noting, though, that the form of fish oil you take can also influence your ability to absorb those omega-3s—and how important it is that you pop your supplement alongside a meal.* The omega-3s in fish oil supplements come in two major forms: triglycerides (a more natural form, like the kind you find in actual fish) and ethyl esters (a further processed form that may cost you more in the long run).

Here’s the deal on these two options: According to a 2020 randomized controlled clinical trial published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, absorption of triglyceride forms is three to five times higher than that of ethyl esters. Blood levels of EPA and DHA also remain higher 24 hours after taking triglycerides compared to ethyl esters.*

The researchers of another study (that’s older but still relevant), meanwhile, looked at the difference that high-fat meals have on absorption rates of triglyceride versus ethyl ester forms of fish oil. They found that without the high-fat meal, the absorption rate of ethyl esters hovered around 20%. With the fatty meal, absorption increased to 60%. For triglycerides, meanwhile, absorption was much higher, at 69% without a high-fat meal and 90% with one.

All of this suggests that taking your fish oil supplement with (or around the time of) a fat-containing snack or meal is always a good idea, but that there’s much more at stake when it comes to absorption if you’re popping an ethyl ester form supplement over a triglyceride one.*

How can you tell which form a product contains, though? Most companies that feature the native form of fish oil/fat (i.e., triglyceride form) of omega-3s in their fish oil are proud of it—and call it out right on the label. Take a look at the Supplement Facts panel on a bottle of mbg’s omega-3 potency+, for example, and you’ll see “EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid triglyceride)” and “DHA (docosahexaenoic acid triglyceride)” specifically highlighted beneath the breakdown of “total omega-3s” per serving.

Whichever form of omega-3s you take—and whenever you choose to take your fish oil supplement—your consistency ultimately has the final impact on how much you benefit. “The health benefits of using daily fish oil supplements are long term, not immediate,”* Avena says. “So, taking them regularly is more important than the time of day you take them.”

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