Q: I read in quite a lot of places that fish oil capsules or cod liver oil are a great supplement for controlling inflammation and improving nutrient partitioning, but no one gives any information about dosing. I have no idea how much of this stuff to ingest. Have you formed any guidelines as a result of your research?
A: A fairly standard dose of fish oil in the studies is the equivalent of 6X1 gram capsules. The average capsule has 180 mg epa and 120 dha so 6 capsules will provide 1020 mg epa and 720mg dha for a total of 1.8 grams of total fish oil. I would consider this basically the minimum daily amount that would be beneficial on any level.
Some work has identified that the body will hit a limit (in terms of plasma saturation) on DHA at 1.2 grams per day which is the equivalent of 10X1 gram fish oil capsules. That would also provide 1.8 grams EPA for a total of 3 grams per day of fish oil. Under most conditions, I think this is more than enough.
A friend who uses fish oiils to control her arthritis will often go as high as 15X1 gram capsules although I haven’t seen that supported in the literature. I’d note that higher doses are not better here (although some are currently recommending absurd amounts). Excessive fish oil can impair the body’s ability to mount a proper immune response, as well as impairing insulin release.
Carlson’s fish oil contains roughly the equivalent of 4X1 gram fish oil capsules per tsp., I don’t know the values on cod liver oil offhand.
My current generic recommendation is the middle level, 10X1 gram capsules per day for 3 grams total fish oil. This should provide maximal benefits (in terms of partitioning and health) with minimum negatives. Individuals trying to control a specific excessive inflammatory condition may wish to experiment with higher doses (15X1 grams capsules or 3-4 tsp Carlson’s fish oil per day).