A Warning Before You Buy Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil supplements have become some of the most popular dietary pills to date, reach almost a billion dollars in 2009. Fish oil contains large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, which may help prevent heart attacks and cardiovascular illness. Scientific support is good for their effectiveness, and they are relatively safe. However, don’t just buy any fish oil you see. There are some things to look for first, to avoid dangerous contaminants and deceivingly high levels of omega 3.

Omega 3 Levels: You should try to take about 1000 mgs of omega 3 per day. This doesn’t mean 1000 mgs of fish oil, but actual omega 3 itself. Look at the amount of DHA and EPA (the two most important omega 3s) on the label, and go by that amount, not the total amount of fish oil.

Lower Amount of Filler: The filler is the non omega 3 portion of the fish oil pill. Look at the total mgs of fish oil per capsule, and then add the DHA and EPA totals. The difference is how much filler there is. For example, if the supplements contains 1000 mgs of fish oil, and 200 mgs of DHA and 200 mgs of EPA, then the total omega 3 is 400 mgs and the filler is 600. Try to find a supplement that has no more than 50% filler. High quality supplements are often around this ratio. Lower quality ones approach 80% filler and even more.

PCB Levels: Plychlorinated biphenyl is a chemical used in a wide variety of industrial applications that was banned due to persistent environmental contamination. It still exists extensively in the environment, and often ends up in fish. It may be a carcinogen, and so should be avoided as much as possible. There has been some concern about trace levels of PCBs showing up in fish oil supplements, and so to avoid it you will want to find a supplement labeled “pharmaceutical grade”.

Cod Liver Oil: A cheap form of fish oil, cod may contain higher amounts of PCB and mercury, and it also contains large amounts of vitamin A, which can build up in the body over time. You may want to avoid long term use of cod liver oil.