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Contamination and Other Problems Found in Fish Oil Supplements

-- Large Review by ConsumerLab.com Reveals Excessive PCBs or Mislabeling in Over 30% of Omega-3 Supplements —

August 22, 2012 — The quality of fish oil / omega-3 supplements varies across brands, according to recent tests by ConsumerLab.com, which independently reports on the quality of health products.  Analyses of 35 products selected and purchased by ConsumerLab.com showed problems with the quality or labeling of 11, or 31.4%, of the products.  ConsumerLab.com uncovered the following problems:
  • Trace levels of PCBs were found in every product (as PCBs are ubiquitous in water), but two supplements exceeded contaminations limits for PCBs. Mercury was not detected in any of the products.  (While it is best to avoid supplements with excess contaminants, raw or cooked fish may contain far more PCBs, as well as mercury, than fish oil supplements.)
  • Four supplements (including one of the contaminated products) contained 20% to 30% less than the claimed amounts of EPA, DHA or other omega-3 fatty acids.
  • An enteric-coated softgel (intended to reduce "fish burp") released its fish oil too early.
  • One softgel product contained spoiled fish oil.
  • Three products contained two to three times the claimed amounts of EPA or other fatty acids, and one supplement incorrectly claimed to contain 1 mg of fat but contained 1,000 mg (1 gram) of fat.

The tested supplements include those with fish oil, krill oil, algal oil (from algae) and/or, calamari (squid) oil. Results are published in a new report on ConsumerLab.com which provides results for the 35 selected products as well as 28 products which passed the same testing through ConsumerLab.com's voluntary certification program. The review covers products for general use and those marketed specifically for pregnant women and children. It also includes pet supplements for use by dogs and cats.

ConsumerLab.com found that good quality fish oil could be had for as little as 1 cent per 100 mg of EPA and DHA (a typical daily dose is 300 mg to 500 mg). Krill oil was much more expensive -- the lowest cost being 19 cents per 100 mg of EPA and DHA. Calamari oil and algal oil tended to be priced between the two other oils. ConsumerLab.com cautioned that some "krill oil" supplements are actually blends of fish and krill oils and their labeling is misleading. Some products also claim to provide a certain percentage of the Daily Value (DV) for EPA and DHA — but no Daily Value has actually been established for omega-3 fatty acids.

The new report is available online to ConsumerLab.com members at https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Omega-3_Fatty_Acids_EPA_and_DHA_from_Fish_Marine_Oils/omega3/. In addition to quality ratings of supplements, the report includes extensive clinical information about the use of fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer, eye disease, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, and in pregnancy. It also provides expert tips on how to buy and use fish oil and other marine oil supplements, and information about dosage, potential side effects, and drug interactions.

The following is a list of products covered in the report:

–         1-800-PetMeds
–         Super Pure Omega 3 Dogs/Cats
–         21st Century Omega-3 Fish Oil
–         Astamega-3 Omega-3 Krill Oil CardioSupport
–         Barlean's Organic Oils Fresh Catch Fish Oil
–         Brain strong
–         Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil
–         Carlson Super Omega-3 Gems Fish Oil Conc.
–         Coromega omega-3 squeeze
–         CVS Pharmacy Natural Fish Oil Concentrate
–         Deva Non-Fish Vegan Omega-3 DHA
–         Doctor's Best -- Best DHA 500 from Calamari
–         Dr. Mercola Krill Oil
–         Finest Natural (Walgreens) Fish Oil
–         Garden of Life Oceans 3
–         GNC Fish Oil 1000
–         GNC TriFlex Complete Vitapak TriFlex
–         GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil
–         GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil + Krill
–         GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil + Phytosterols
–         GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil + Resveratrol
–         GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil + Vitamin D-3
–         GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil Sport
–         GNC Triple Strength Omega Complex
–         GNC Ultra Omega Krill Oil
–         I.Q. Essentials (Purity Products) Kid's Omega-3 Fish Oil
–         Jamieson Omega-3 Select
–         Jarrow Formulas Krill Oil
–         Julian Whitaker, M.D. O-3 Essentials
–         Kirkland (Costco) Signature Natural Omega-3 Fish Oil
–         LaneLabs EcoOmega
–         Life Extension Super Omega-3 EPA/DHA
–         L'il Critters Omega-3 DHA Gummy Fish
–         Metagenics EPA-DHA 720
–         Natrol DHA 500 Super Strength
–         Natural Factors RxOmega-3 Factors
–         Nature Made One Per Day Fish Oil
–         Nature's Bounty Fish Oil
–         Nature's Way Fisol
–         Nordic Calamari Higher Potency Omega-3
–         Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega
–         NOW Neptune Krill Oil
–         Nutrilite OceanEssentials omega-3
–         Omega Factor 3
–         Omega-Caps for Cats and Small Dogs
–         Omega Smart (Renew Life) Kids DHA
–         Omega Smart (Renew Life) Ultimate Fish Oils
–         One A Day Women's Prenatal with DHA
–         Ovega-3
–         Petco Healthy Skin & Coat Omega-3 for Dogs
–         PharmaNutrients learn
–         ProNutrients Omega3
–         Puritan's Pride Premium Omega-3 Fish Oil
–         Schiff MegaRed 100% Pure Omega-3 Krill Oil
–         Simply Right (Sam's Club)  Enteric Fish Oil
–         Source Naturals Arctic Pure Krill Oil
–         Sundown Naturals Fish Oil
–         Swanson EFA's 100% Pure Krill Oil
–         Swanson EFA's Super EPA
–         USANA Optimizers BiOmega
–         Vitacost Mega EFA Omega-3 EPA & DHA
–         VitalOils1000
–         Vitamin Shoppe Omega 3 Fish Oil 800/500
–         Vitamin World Omega-3 Fish Oil
–         Whole Foods Omega-3 Cold Water Fish Oil
–         Xtendlife Omega 3/DHA Fish Oil Premium

 

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