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Wild Alaskan salmon oil is one of the best sources of omega fats—and many brands also boast vitamin D and astaxanthin.

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Wild Alaskan salmon oil is one of the best sources of omega fats—and many brands also boast vitamin D and astaxanthin

The benefits of fish oil supplements have been studied for more than 30 years and today, there are more choices than ever before. Salmon oil is a relatively recent addition and embodies some popular trends: for supplements to match, as closely as possible, the combination of nutrients found in whole foods; and for the origin of foods to be identified. Salmon oil usually comes from one of two regions: Alaska or Norway.

Supplements of fish oil are typically derived from a variety of fish, and are designed to provide two essential omega-3 fats, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the subject of more than 19,000 published scientific papers. But salmon oil, uniquely derived from only one type of fish, has some special characteristics.

In the case of wild Alaskan salmon oil, in addition to EPA and DHA, supplements often list smaller quantities of a variety of other omega fats found in the fish, plus astaxanthin and, sometimes, vitamin D. The other omega fats may include omega 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 (omega 9 is the key beneficial fat in olive oil), and work synergistically, just as they do when we eat salmon.

Omega Benefits

According to the American Heart Association, the key omega-3 fats—EPA and DHA—reduce the risk of abnormal heartbeats that can lead to sudden death from heart disease, slow the rate of plaque growth in arteries, slightly lower blood pressure, and lower triglycerides, blood fats that are tested along with cholesterol and are harmful when elevated. For both healthy people and those with heart disease, the association recommends eating fish that is rich in omega-3s, at least twice a week.

Research also shows that EPA and DHA reduce chronic inflammation and help relieve inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease; help to keep cholesterol at healthy levels; lower risk for colon, breast, and prostate cancers; protect joints; reduce menstrual pain; relieve depression and may improve mood swings and schizophrenia; reduce anxiety; help some children with ADHD; and reduce risk for macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. And more benefits are continually being explored.

In salmon oil, the ratio of EPA to DHA is somewhat unique. While other fish oils most often contain a 3:2 ratio of EPA:DHA, salmon oil contains a higher proportion of DHA. Wild Alaskan salmon oil, in particular, often contains more DHA than EPA. While both of these in concert deliver a wide range of benefits, DHA is especially important for healthy development of the nervous system and vision in infants, and for healthy brain function in adults.

The other omega fats—5 through 9— perform a variety of functions. They contribute to heart health, inflammation control, balanced blood sugar, healthy skin, healthy cell structure and growth, restful sleep, and a healthy immune system. The amounts in salmon oil are relatively small but contribute to a healthy balance of fats.


A strong antioxidant that gives salmon its pink color, astaxanthin (pronounced “asta-zan-thin”) is naturally present in algae that is eaten by wild salmon, and is one of the ingredients in many wild Alaskan salmon oils. (Astaxanthin is also found in krill oil.) As an antioxidant, it neutralizes free radicals, waste products of normal energy production in our bodies that accelerate aging and promote disease.

Astaxanthin is also found in individual supplements and in skin care products designed to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin elasticity. The quantities in a serving of salmon oil are smaller than those in concentrated astaxanthin supplements, but are well absorbed with the healthy fats in the oil.

Beneficial omega-3 fats have been tested in more than 2,000 human trials.

Label Savvy

Check how many capsules or teaspoons make up one serving. In the Supplements Facts panel, look for the quantities of EPA and DHA, and add them together. For example, a supplement with 200 mg of EPA and 220 mg of DHA would contain a total of 420 mg of EPA and DHA.

How Much Do You Need?

For healthy people: The American Dietetic Association recommends 500 mg daily of EPA and DHA.

For anyone with heart disease: The American Heart Association recommends 1,000 mg daily of EPA and DHA, and between 2,000 and 4,000 mg to lower triglycerides. (Consult with a health professional for doses exceeding 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA, which may increase bleeding).

Good Buys:

NEW CHAPTER Wholemega delivers nature’s complement of 17 omegas derived from whole wild Alaskan salmon.

NORTH AMERICAN HERB & SPICE PolarPower Wild Sockeye Salmon Oil This unfiltered, whole-food fish oil supplement with vitamins A and D can be added to smoothies.

BARLEAN’S Wild & Whole Alaskan Salmon Oil is minimally processed to retain a natural balance of omegas, and also provides vitamin D3 and astaxanthin.