Fish oil is extremely good for many skin conditions, especially the dry, flaky skin condition. It is also a very good anti-inflammatory, heart disease and stroke preventative. Hence its popularity has increased over the last few years, resulting in many companies distributing fish oils.
Fish oils are omega-3’s – the good oils that tend to be low in a western diet. Omega 6’s are high in a western diet, increasing the risk of inflammation So one of the many benefits of taking fish oil is that we can change the ratio of omega 3:6 to a healthier ratio with higher 3 and lower 6.
Concerns Around Fish Oil And Health
Several research studies have investigated the levels of omega 3 found in fish oil capsules. Disturbingly they have found that consumers are definitely not getting what they are paying for.
A report by the University of Adelaide (B Albert, et al, Jan 2015), tested 32 brands of fish oil supplements that were purchased over the counter in New Zealand. Two of these were Practitioner Only supplements that are only allowed to be used following a naturopathic consultation.
Of the 32 products tested, only 3 contained the quantities of EPA and DHA at or near the levels stated on the label. Two products were found to have around a third of the advertised content of EPA and DHA. On average the fish oil contained 68% of the claimed omega 3 content. Only three products contained omega 3 that was equal to or above the amount advertised on the label.
The more expensive brands tended to have more accurate labeling of their actual EPA and DHA content.
The researchers also found that the fats found in the fish oil capsules had oxidised i.e. they contained free radicals above the international recommended levels of 92%. This was occurring even though all of the products tested were within their best before dates. The health implications of consuming oxidised fish oil capsules, is not clear at this time.
The quality and country of origin did not have a bearing on quality and although the majority of products were made in New Zealand and Australia, the vast majority of oils were sourced from South American deep sea fish. The researchers also noted that 17 products listed the same concentration of n-3 PUFAs (180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA per gram of oil). Although they noted that there may be similarities given that a lot of the fish oil was sourced from the west coast of South America they concluded that this suggested that many companies were using the information supplied by the extractors (who supply the fish oil to companies which make the oil into capsules and brand them). This implies that testing is not being done by individual companies to test the quality, purity or contamination of the fish oil.
The researchers noted that oxidation levels can change according to transportation, encapsulation, packaging and storing methods. They also noted that ingredients such as vitamin E added to the fish oil, can help decrease the risk of oxidation.
How To Know A Good Fish Oil From A Bad One
As a practitioner, I feel more comfortable knowing that my suppliers test their products for quality and purity. I also like to know that their packaging processes are decreasing the risk of oxidation.
Because fish oil can be sold as a dietary supplement, stringent testing does not need to be undertaken in Australia in order to conform to Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) guidelines. If I desired to market my own brand of fish oil, I could simply go to a supplier of fish oil, or a Private Label Manufacturer and ask them to prepare me a quantity of fish oil capsules with my brand name on the label.
They have responded to the research report saying that,
“When choosing and recommending a fish oil, it is important to select a product that has been processed and stored properly and has been thoroughly tested for oxidation by-products.”
In reply to the research report they stated that:
• Because of the consistency of the results, it seems likely that the authors were using a method that yields incomplete results. The authors did disclose their method and did not follow the accepted AOCS, European Pharmacopeia, or GOED Voluntary Monograph methods, although it is unclear whether the authors’ method was validated.
• The authors did not use the TGA-approved European Pharmacopeia methods for measuring EPA and DHA content and appear to have modified the approved methods for measuring oxidation.
• The authors’ statement that “oxidation may at least in part account for the low n-3 PUFA levels” suggests a lack of general knowledge of lipid analysis.
Metagenics, another Practitioner Only supplier of supplements has always boasted about its processing of fish oil products noting that is surpasses the Australian Standards when it comes to purity, quality, taste and sustainable sourcing.
It claims to:
• remove all impurities;
• manufacture using nitrogen flushing to produce formulas that are fresh and are protected from oxidation;
• use fish oils that are certified by Friend of the Sea, an independent organisation that audits and certifies products that practise sustainable fishing and reduce their environmental impact.
For more information about the claims made by Metagenics visit https://www.metagenics.com.au/five-ways-metagenics-fish-oils-are-surpassing-standards
• adhere to and exceed the stringent European Pharmacopoeia Standard (EPS) as well as the voluntary standards set by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega–3 (GOED) for all of our oils. These standards guarantee quality products by setting maximum allowances on peroxides, heavy metals, dioxins, and PCBs.
Like Metagenics, Nordic Naturals also claim to use a nitrogen (oxygen–free) environment to achieve freshness and decrease oxidation to reduce heat requirements and subsequently, thereby maintaining the integrity of the oils.
Who To Trust When Buying Your Fish Oil
Undoubtedly the report has found that many companies producing fish oil products are making claims on their labels that is incorrect.
When a product becomes popular, new products will undoubtedly appear in the market place to try to get in on the boom. Let’s face it – purchasing 32 brands of fish oil from one store (as the researchers did), certainly indicates that this is the case.
There are many companies that been supplying these products to the market decades before they become popular, especially the companies that support natural health practitioners. As Bioceuticals noted “No brands are named so the results cannot be compared to other tests on the same batch.”
In addition to companies not being able to compare one batch to another batch of fish oil, the quality suppliers of fish oil are unable to defend their position and prove their innocence.
For the consumer, when no brands are named it becomes impossible to work out which is a reliable or a “to be avoided” fish oil. It means that the consumer cannot see the response of the companies supplying the dishonestly labelled products, but it also unfairly taints the suppliers who pride themselves on supplying good quality products
My Advice As A Health Care Practitioner
As a health care practitioner, I realize the benefits of treating eczema and other dry skin conditions with fish oils. I also understand that it a great tool for preventing heart disease, stroke and other inflammatory conditions.
So my advise as a health practitioner is don’t turn your back on using fish oil as a supplement, but look for companies that:
• have a proven record of supplying quality products (and have been around for many few years);
• have been happy to talk about the way they purify and test their fish oils products for quality, for many years;
• claim to exceed (not just meet) the Australian and international standards;
• that have TGA approved products (look for an R or L on the product label;
• Look for companies that do their own research into health concerns, as these companies are the innovators of new products and not the companies which follow the leaders to try to cash in on the latest “thing”.
NOTE: The findings of this study cannot be applied to krill oil, as it is a different marine source.
For quality fish oil capsules, ask your Healthy Skin Clinic practitioner to recommend a product this is right for your needs. Rememberd different health concerns will benefit from different mixtures of fish oil.
http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150121/srep07928/full/srep07928.html. Fish oil supplements in New Zealand are highly oxidised and do not meet label content of n-3 PUFA. Albert, b, et al. Jan 2015.