July 22, 2018
Putting Fish Oil Capsules to the Test

Putting Fish Oil Capsules to the Test

by Berkeley Wellness  

If you don’t eat a lot of seafood (or any at all), fish oil supplements can be a good way to reel in some healthful omega-3 fats. But how do they stack up in terms of safety? Pretty well, according to ConsumerLab.com, which, in its most recent testing of 24 products, found none that contained detectable mercury or unsafe lead levels, and only one that slightly exceeded the contamination limit for PCBs. (Because of highly sensitive testing, all had at least trace levels of PCBs, since virtually all fish have some—but much less than what you’d get eating fish, according to ConsumerLab.) Even the one cod liver oil product in the group passed testing, though liver oils tend to have more toxins than whole-fish oils.

It’s not surprising that fish oil supplements are low in contaminants, since they are typically made from smaller species (such as anchovies and sardines), which accumulate fewer contaminants, or from algae. And since mercury is water-soluble, it tends to accumulate in the flesh of the fish, not in the fat or oil. Moreover, many manufacturers process their products to remove contaminants.

On the downside, three products contained about 20 percent less omega-3s than the labels claimed. And three products were spoiled. Spoilage compounds may cause burping and other gastrointestinal complaints. But it’s not known if spoilage has any long-term health effects (it could, at least in theory, since rancid oils contain potentially harmful oxidized compounds). Some of the rancid products tested had no odor, but if your supplement smells or tastes off, toss it.