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Question:
Are there any red flags to look for on the label when choosing a fish oil supplement?

Answer:
Yes, there are some things to look out for on a fish oil label, as well labels of other omega-3 supplements, such as krill oil and algal oil. As discussed in our Review, avoid supplements that only list the total amount of oil, such as "fish oil," and do not list the amounts of the specific omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Products listing identical amounts of total fish oil per serving can vary widely in terms of the amounts EPA and DHA, depending on how concentrated they are.

A variety of terms found on fish or marine oil supplement labels can be misleading. For example, some products claim to be "pharmaceutical grade," but this term is meaningless because the FDA has not defined what would constitute a pharmaceutical grade fish oil product.

Of course, there are also issues that can’t be resolved just from looking at the label - like whether the product contains the omega-3 fatty acids it claims, doesn’t exceed contamination limits for PCBs, is fresh or stale, and whether an enteric coating releases ingredients at the right time – which is why ConsumerLab.com tests for all these issues.

For more items  to watch out for and our most recent test results of products, see the Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements Review >>

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Comments
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Maurice H166   September 19, 2014
One very important thing is to check the label for the presence of an antioxidant. Fish oils can go rancid rather quickly. Antioxidants can provide some protection against this and maybe even a little added benefit for your health.

autumn156   September 11, 2014
I just avoid all of them.

Lois153   September 10, 2014
Be very careful with "fish oil" supplements. Many fish oils are products of dirty fisheries around the world and there is some opinion that the "fish oil" craze is a profit-making side-business foist upon us. The question to ask is this: if more and more people are taking fish oils, why is the use of statins rising exponentially? All we really need are 2 essential oils: linoleic and linolenic. The so-called "fish oils" may be part of the problem. This is my humble opinion, but think about it.....

Dan158   September 15, 2014
Just eat quality sardines twice a week

David8412   February 3, 2016
The increase in statins is more due to over-prescribing by doctor's as opposed to fish oil not being effective since there are countless clinical studies that show many potential health benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids.

On the other hand, as valuable as omega-3 fa appear to be it seems odd that the FDA has not set reference ranges like many other nutrients. Finally, I believe fish oil is being overused due to the notion, if a little is good a lot must be better. Be aware that that if you take any blood thinners like Pradaxa or coumadin that fish oil can further enhance blood-thinning when used in large amounts (3000mg+); thereby making it a life-threatening situation, if injury resulting in blood-loss were to occur.

This CL Answer initially posted on 9/10/2014. Last updated 8/8/2017.

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