Finding the best fish oil may not be as simple as you think. On March 2, 2010, the world’s largest producer of fish oil products was sued under California Proposition 65 for not revealing to consumers that their supplements contained toxic levels of PCBs.
This may be a surprise to some, but it was not to my husband and I. Companies that manufacture fish oil supplements are part of the mushrooming dietary supplement industry. Critics of this industry argue that its safety regulations are too weak. They lack any standardized ingredient testing protocols and are not required to prove the effectiveness of the finished product.
Instead, each manufacturer is required to show that it conducts at least one test. During facilities inspections by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some makers have acceptable testing procedures in place while others have been found to not test at all!
The current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) safety regulations are
enforced by the FDA, but are under fire from some quarters as lacking teeth to ensure product safety. The FDA responds that the rules are sufficient, but their enforcement capability is hampered by funding limitations.
The agency inspects only a fraction of the registered supplement manufacturers per year. Nonetheless, an alarming number of manufacturers are found in violations of the cGMP. During fiscal year 2016, FDA conducted 583 inspections that yielded 362 non-compliance Form 483 letters, a failure rate of 62%, according to ConsumerLab.
Dietary supplements are part of a $37 billion industry with 13,000 manufacturers producing 80,000 to 90,000 products, according to the 2016 Frontline article, Can Regulators Keep Up with the Supplements Industry?.
Several things are clear--the industry is huge, the manufacturers are plentiful, and the opportunity for unscrupulous characters to flourish is wide open.
Fish oil supplements, a leading source of Omega 3 fatty acids useful in joint inflammation and heart disease, are not, therefore, strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA classifies all dietary supplements as foods, not as a drug.
In sourcing fish oil there are growing concerns about unsafe levels of contaminants such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs now commonly found in many fish.
We've repeatedly cautioned on this website that not all dietary supplements are equally tested for purity and potency. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, not all supplements are equal in quality.
Some of the important factors to consider while buying a fish oil supplement rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include purity, potency, freshness, nutrients, bio-availability, cost and sustainability.
Above all, ensure that the product has been purified by molecular distillation. Molecular distillation is a process used by the better fish oil manufacturers to eliminate harmful toxins from fish oil. This process helps to separate fish oil from PCBs and other toxic minerals, allowing manufacturers to create a purer and safer fish oil supplement.
That’s why we put our trust in the triple molecular-processed best fish oil supplement we’ve found (for our heart and arthritis joints) from the #1 natural nutrition company in America.
The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, along with two other plaintiffs, introduced the aforementioned lawsuit in California Superior Court in San Francisco. They allege that the defendants are marketing products containing PCB levels that exceed the law's limits for human consumption of these contaminants, and illegally failing to disclose this to consumers on product labels.
The defendants in this lawsuit were the world-leading Omega Protein, a Houston-based corporation, and the many companies that they produced fish oil for – companies like Rite Aid, CVS, GNC, Now Health Group, Pharmavite, Solgar and Twinlab.
The Mateel group alleged it only tested 10 omega-3 supplements manufactured by Omega Protein to date and found PCBs in all of them. Their initial testing found that levels of PCBs in supplements in popular fish oil products varied wildly.
Based on the daily dose written on the labels, they found PCBs from about 12 nanograms in the best performer to more than 850 nanograms in the worst performer - a factor of 70. Mateel plans to continue testing and to add other companies to the lawsuit if their products are also contaminated.
The allegations in the lawsuit have not yet been proven in court.
Consumer Reports conducted its own study of a number of fish oil brands (but not all brands) commonly found on the shelves of retail outlets in America, published in its January 2012 issue.
Entitled, Fish Oil Pills versus Claims, their testing revealed discrepancies in quality of 33% of those tested.
According to the article, "Americans are buying more fish-oil supplements than ever, but in industry-standard tests of 15 top-selling brands conducted by an outside lab for Consumer Reports, five fell a bit short."
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are man-made toxic, colorless and odorless chemicals that were widely used in electrical transformers and other industrial applications before they were banned by Congress in 1979.
Most PCBs in the environment end up in rivers, streams, lakes and, ultimately, the oceans. Once there, PCBs enter the food chain. To lessen PCBs, small, cold-water fish are recommended as the safer fish oil source.
California is the only state that requires labeling to warn consumers a product may contain trace amounts of PCBs, which have been tied to cancer and birth defects.
Omega 3 fatty acids are called "essential" because, like vitamins, the body needs them and cannot make them. Thus, we need to be sure we get enough from our diets or from the best fish oil supplements.
In foods, omega-3's are found predominantly in cold-water fish and a few vegetable oils (flaxseed, walnut and canola). Other sources of omega-3s include whole grains, legumes, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
Fish oil is considered the best source as it contains a full spectrum of seven omega 3 fatty acids, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA docosahexaenoic acid), ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid), and more. The average American intake of EPA and DHA is only 0.1 to 0.2 grams daily.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating two servings of fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids each week to provide an intake of about 0.3 to 0.5 grams daily of EPA and DHA.
Over 4,500 research studies on omega-3 fatty acids’ effects on overall health have been conducted in the last 25 years. This research shows that high levels of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids found in the best fish oil promote cardiovascular health, help retain normal blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and support brain, visual and joint function.
Perhaps the strongest study-proven benefit is its anti-inflammatory properties for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The best source of essential omega 3 fatty acids is from cold water fish (tuna, mackerel, halibut, salmon and cod). It’s difficult to get therapeutic amounts of fish oil by eating fish alone.
Coupled with concerns that the food supply is contaminated, dietary supplements are a logical alternative—if they are high quality, high purity and rigidly tested for complete decontamination.
My husband and I use one of the world’s best fish oil supplements because of its superior processing.
The manufacturer uses state-of-the-art proprietary triple molecular distillation that concentrates natural beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. The net result is an ultra-pure premium fish oil supplement.
It contains the full spectrum of all seven omega-3s including EPA, DHA and ALA. We take this supplement primarily for heart health, but we feel it also helps reduce joint inflammation from our arthritis conditions, which we really like.
We also like that it's easy to digest.
The pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplement we take has been formulated to minimize odor and fishy aftertaste. It contains higher levels of EPA and DHA than leading brands. It's guaranteed free of impurities and contaminants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs.
The science behind each of their products appears to be second to none. They’ve invested more than $250 million in clinical testing, research and development and have over 100 published studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals—more than any other nutritional company we've found! I highly recommend what we consider the best fish oil available on the market. The label reads take 2 softgels one or two times daily. It is 180 capsules, however, also available in a 60-capsule size.
PS: We think this link summarizes the difference in this company, and leads to its science studies pages.
*Best Fish Oil Disclaimer: Health statements on this Best Fish Oil page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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