In recent times there has been a lot of talk about fish oil supplements and how safe they are. Which leads to the question: What is the safest fish oil supplement for me and my family.
To answer this, it is important to understand what factors could render a supplement unsafe and weigh that against all of the positive benefits that they can offer.
Because of public concerns, there have been a number of independent and laboratory tests conducted on the levels of contaminants found in a variety of name brand fish oil supplements. Some lower-quality supplements tested positive for high levels of the contaminant polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) as well as other impurities and toxins such as mercury.
A lawsuit was filed as recently as 2010 against irresponsible manufacturers selling contaminated products.
It is vital to check that any fish oil product you buy has been properly filtered to remove any PCB’s, mercury and other toxic substances. (Read more in Mercury In Fish Oil Capsules)
Free Radicals and Fish Oils
Researchers have found that rancid fish oils react to free radical damage that leads to the formation of a family of compounds that are harmful to your body.
For example, free radical damage to DHA leads to the creation of certain compounds that are being investigated as markers for oxidative stress in your brain which could leave to certain neurological disorders. Rancid fish oil will only add to the free radicals already existing in your body.
The best manufacturers of fish oil will evaluate their product for freshness to ensure that there are low levels of free radical damage to the oil.
How to Choose a Safe Fish Oil Supplement
One way to ensure you are getting a safe fish oil supplement is to find one that is pure and fresh. That is, it does not contain any contaminants or extra ingredients and it is as fresh as possible.
You should look for brands that use the molecular distillation process, as this purification process reliably removes all toxins from the oil.
One way of telling whether or not a fish oil is fresh is to smell it. If there is no distinct odour then it is likely fresh. Stale fish oil supplements will have a stale taste and a ‘fishy’ or rancid smell to them. Fresh oil has just a faint ocean type smell.
It’s also wise to steer clear of brands that use an ‘enteric coating’. While commonly used by companies to prevent the fish oil from being digested earlier on in the digestive system and thus ‘preventing fish burps and stomach upset’, it is important to know that those symptoms are only a result of stale fish oil in the first place!
One way to guarantee that you are buying a fish oil that is safe is to log on to the manufacturer’s website to read the product’s Certificate of Analysis, or COA. It will indicate whether or not there are any toxins or contaminants in the oil. If they don’t show it anywhere – ask them for a copy.
The company I choose to buy from takes quality very seriously indeed (but don’t tell them their prices are darn good or they might decide to put them up!).
Fish Oils Are Still a Great Product
Despite the risks and contaminants found in low-quality fish oil supplements, as long as you are taking a high-quality, fresh oil it is still one of the best supplements out there to add to your daily routine.
Known to help many ailments including lowering triglyceride levels and reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, reducing stiffness in joints, and lowering blood pressure (along with many others), the benefits of fish oil are wide ranging and truly significant.
When buying an omega 3 fish oil supplement you should look for one that has at least 250mg of DHA per 1000mg capsule. DHA is the main source of the benefits in fish oil and so the higher the quantity, the more effective the brand will be. Try to avoid brands that do not specify the amounts of DHA and EPA they contain.
If you’re still not sure if your supplement is as good as it should be, compare it with the product I use – if it’s almost as good as this one then it’s good enough. If it falls far short then you need to look for a different brand.