Beneficial omega 3 supplements from fish oil are gaining in popularity. Numerous studies tout their effectiveness to mitigate a myriad of issues from heart health to simple arthritis inflammation. Yet questions arise concerning their purity in removing toxins, such as PCBs, found in fish.
One leading brand credits its triple molecular distillation process for producing the world’s finest pharmaceutical grade fish oi (see Number One Brand at the end of this report.
The dietary supplement industry is not strictly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is no uniformity required in the testing methods that manufacturer’s perform on raw materials. The FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) lack regulatory teeth governing testing and proof of a product’s efficacy.
An example concerning lack of purity of fish oil developed on March 2, 2010 in the form of a lawsuit when the world’s largest producer of omega 3 fish oil, Omega Protein, was sued under California Proposition 65 for not telling consumers that their products contained toxic levels of PCBs. Omega Protein produces fish oil supplements for companies like Rite Aid, CVS, GNC, Now Health Group, Pharmavite, Solgar and Twinlab.
The Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation introduced the lawsuit, after testing 10 omega 3 supplements manufactured by Omega Protein and finding PCBs in all of them. The suit alleges 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 allegations in the lawsuit have not yet been proven in court.
Consumer Reports conducted its own tests of just 15 brands of fish oil, 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."
For safety, pharmaceutical grade omega 3 supplements have the purest processing.
The most significant quality issue in fish oil is the toxic chemical contamination of the food chain in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. Fish accumulate toxins such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs. Mercury can damage the nervous system—-particularly in a fetus. Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), banned by Congress in 1979, may be carcinogens at low levels of exposure over time and may have other deleterious effects.
The freshness of the oil is also an important consideration in a fish oil supplement because rancid fish oils have an extremely unpleasant odor and may not be as effective. Additionally, some fish oil capsules are enteric coated or are strategically designed to release the oil after passing through the stomach to reduce fishy breath odor. If they release too soon, they lose that potential benefit. If they release too late, the oil may be not absorbed. The quality in the preparation is of utmost importance.
Geographical source control and the use of species of fish that are less likely to accumulate toxins are both important quality issues. The distillation processes used in processing fish oil for contaminant removal is paramount when taking a fish oil supplement. Look for Pharmaceutical Grade on the product label. The supplement I recommend sources from Norway and is Friend of the Sea certified.
Fish oil is the recommended source of essential omega 3 fatty acids (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 pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplements.
Omega 3s consist of seven fatty acids. The two principal fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA Idocosahexaenoic acid) are found in fish. DHA can also be obtained from other marine sources, such as algae. EPA and DHA are polyunsaturated fats (“good” fats, as opposed to saturated fats that are thought to increase the risk of heart disease). The body can manufacture both EPA and DHA from another essential fatty acid, ALA (alpha linolenic acid) -- found in vegetable oils (flaxseed, canola, linseed, olive, soy) and walnut oil – but only to a limited extent.
Fish oil omega 3 supplements are considered the best source of EPA and DHA, the two most beneficial fatty acids, according to scientific research
Over 4,500 research studies on the effects on overall health of omega-3’s have been conducted in the last 25 years. Research shows that high levels of EPA and DHA--two primary omega 3s--promote cardiovascular health, help retain normal blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and support brain, visual and joint function.
According to MedlinePlus (a service of the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health) a 2012 National Health Interview Survey revealed fish oil supplements are the natural product most commonly taken by both adults and children, outside of multivitamins. The survey findings indicated that about 7.8 percent of adults (18.8 million) and 1.1 percent of children age 4 to 17 (664,000) had taken a fish oil supplement in the previous 30 days.
There are numerous heart-health benefits of omega-3 fish oil supplements, according to WebMd.
Findings show omega-3 fatty acids may help to:
Studies show fish oil supplements can curb stiffness and joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis, and also seem to boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs, according to WebMD.
Non conclusive studies show that an omega 3 fish oil supplement may also help improve or prevent the following:
When considering omega 3 supplements made from fish oil, read the label and the serving size. The amount of EPA and DHA contained in the supplement is the important statistic, not the total amount of fish oil. The better brands should total approximately 1 gram (900 to 1100 mg) EPA/DHA combined per serving size.
The concentrations of EPA and DHA in fish oil supplements currently sold vary by as much as ten fold—from just 8% to 79% per capsule according to industry watchdog, ConsumerLab. Concentration depends on the source of the omega 3s, how the oil is processed, and the amounts of other ingredients included in the supplement.
If you are trying to get as much EPA or DHA from the smallest serving size (I.e., fewer or smaller capsules), look for supplements with higher concentrations of EPA and DHA per serving size. A more concentrated product will generally allow you to ingest less total fish oil.
The best omega 3 supplements will contain a full spectrum of seven naturally occurring omega 3 fatty acids, including EPA. DHA, alpha-linolenic (ALA), docosapentaenoic, stearidonic, eicosatetraenoic and heneicosapentaenoic acids.
Processing of the fish oil supplement is its final test. The best fish oil brands are pharmaceutical grade (stated on the label) and have been purified to remove contaminants.
I believe to find the number one brand of omega 3 supplements you must first find the best manufacturer. My husband and I have used the same company for nearly 30 years for whole food vitamins and arthritis supplements, including fish oil. I developed a list of 30 questions (modified somewhat over the years) that helped us find this 'beyond organic' industry leader.
This finest omega 3 fish oil sets a new standard in purity and full-spectrum potency:
It is for these reasons that I confidently recommend the brand that we trust, Omega Guard by Shaklee, and what I consider as the best of omega 3 supplements on the market. Note: The label directions read: "Take 2 softgels one or two times daily with meals." We use the 180-count softgel size, a 90-day supply at two softgels daily, or 45-day supply at four daily. A 60-count size is also available.
*Omega 3 Supplements Disclaimer: Health statements on this 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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