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Are Fish Oils the Same As Vitamin E?

Although they are both found in golden gelcaps and both are oil-based substances, the similarities between fish oil and vitamin E end there. Even the smell of these substances is different, with fish oil having a strong fishy smell and vitamin E being relatively odorless. From a nutritional perspective, these supplements satisfy very different needs and should not be confused.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is primarily an antioxidant. This means that it prevents damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive oxygen or nitrogen containing substances in the body. While not all oxygen or nitrogen containing substances are free radicals, most free radicals contains oxygen or nitrogen. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin E is 15 milligrams, which is equivalent to 22.5 international units. This can be satisfied by eating nuts, avocados and various oils such as olive, canola, safflower and sunflower oils.

Fish Oil

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Fish oil is not the same thing as vitamin E. The name fish oil is used to refer to oil that is expressed from the whole body of a fish. Sometimes it is confused with cod liver oil which is obtained from the livers of cod fish. Fish oil is taken as a supplement because it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, better known as DHA.


MedlinePlus reports that small amounts of vitamin E are often added to fish oil to prevent spoiling. It reports further that fish oil may cause lower levels of vitamin E in the body than would be the case in people not taking fish oil. Researchers are not sure whether people taking fish oil use more vitamin E than others or whether the vitamin E is not absorbed into their bodies.


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Don't confuse cod liver oil and fish oil. Unlike fish oil or vitamin E, 1 tbsp. of cod liver oil contains 13,600 international units of vitamin A. Given that the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A is 2,333 IU for women and 3,000 for men, taking large doses of cod liver oil could quickly cause vitamin A toxicity.