ConsumerLab.com finds Omega-3 fish oil supplements safer than fish but quality varies among brands — Test of 41 Supplements Finds No Mercury or PCB Contamination, But Some Spoiled or Lacking Claimed Oils
Fish oil supplements are one of the fastest growing categories of supplements, with sales up 35% in 2003 to $192 million according to Nutrition Business Journal. Interest in fish oil supplements has grown significantly since 2000, when the FDA's began allowing products to make the claim that omega-3 oils may reduce the risk of heart disease. Interest in supplements as a source of these oils was stimulated this year by reports of contamination of commonly consumed fish, such as mercury in albacore ("white") tuna and of PCBs in farmed salmon.
The lack of contaminants in the fish oil supplements tested may be explained by the fact that most of the mercury in fish is found in the meat and not the oil; the species of fish used to make supplements are typically not those that are likely to accumulate mercury; and distillation processes used in making supplements help remove contaminants.
"Because of how they are made, supplements are a great alternative to fish as a source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids," said Tod Cooperman, M.D., ConsumerLab.com's president. Dr. Cooperman cautioned, however, that not all supplements have the oils they claim or as fresh as they should be. "It is best to use brands that have been independently tested," he noted.
The three products that failed the testing had the following problems:
Twenty-four of the products listed in the report were tested at the request of their manufacturers. Several of these were also subjected, at their manufacturers request, to testing for dioxins — which were not found. The new report is found at www.consumerlab.com/results/omega3.asp. The report provides extensive information on using fish oil supplements. Reviews of other popular types of supplements are also available from at www.consumerlab.com and new reviews soon to be released include nutrition bars, alpha-lipoic acid, supplements used for menopause, and B vitamins. The paperback ConsumerLab.com's Guide to Buying Vitamins and Supplements: What's Really in the Bottle? is available in bookstores, online, or through 800-431-1579.
ConsumerLab.com is a leading provider of consumer information and independent evaluations of products that affect health and nutrition. The company is privately held and based in White Plains, New York. It has no ownership from, or interest in, companies that manufacture, distribute, or sell consumer products. ConsumerLab.com is affiliated with PharmacyChecker.com (www.pharmacychecker.com), an evaluator of online pharmacies. Subscription to ConsumerLab.com is available online. For group subscriptions, Technical Reports, or product testing contact Lisa Sabin, Vice President for Business Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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