ConsumerLab.com recently updated its research on marine oils on its Feb.16.2016 publication titled “Product Review: Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements Review (including Krill, Algae, Calamari, Green-lipped Mussel Oil)“.
One of CL primary concerns come from labeling problems, and when a product that claims to be pure, is not pure, for example, some products sport terms which, in actuality, are meaningless and misleading:
- “Pharmaceutical grade” — Although some products claim to be “pharmaceutical grade” this term means nothing, as the FDA has not defined what would constitute a pharmaceutical grade fish oil product.
- “Tested in FDA approved laboratories” — The FDA does not approve analytical laboratories so these claims are not correct, although laboratories may be FDA registered and inspected.
- “Krill Oil” — Be aware that term “krill oil” in the name of a product does not necessarily means it’s all krill oil. For example, in the past CL found that if you looked carefully at the label of one krill oil product, the “Other Ingredients” section (which is in order of amount) showed “fish oil” first on the list. How can a product do this? An ingredient sold as “Arctic Pure Krill Oil” is actually a trade name for a blend of fish oil and krill oil made by Azantis, Inc. In fact, even the astaxanthin (naturally found in real krill oil, giving it its red color) has been added from an algal source, although this is not always disclosed on labels.
- “Daily value for EPA and DHA” — In the Supplement Facts panels of some products are claims that they provide a specific percentage of the DV (Daily Value) for EPA and DHA. DVs are developed by the USDA and FDA and relate to the recommended daily allowance of a required nutrient. However, no DV has been established for EPA and DHA. Up & Up (Target) Adult Gummy Omega-3 Vitamin, for example, claims that its listed 50 mg of EPA and DHA provide 31% of this imaginary DV.
CL’s take away:
- Taking a supplement with EPA and DHA from fish oil (or other source, such as krill oil or algae) offers a wide range of potential benefits for mental health, treating inflammatory disease, and even cancer prevention. As far as cardiovascular and cognitive (and memory) benefits, eating fish at least twice a week may do more good than taking a fish oil supplement, although, if eating fish, be aware that some types can be high in mercury
- Different amounts of EPA and DHA have been used for different purposes. A general daily dose is about 300 to 500 mg of EPA and DHA, while some treatments (such as for high triglycerides) involve doses as high as 4,000 mg per day. Focus on the amount of EPA and DHA in a product rather than the amount of total oil, since the concentration of EPA and DHA in oils ranges from about 33% to 85%. If you need a high daily dose, dividing the dose over the course of the day may reduce any unpleasant aftertaste. Taking fish oil with a meal containing other fats may improve absorption.
- Not all supplements contain their listed ingredients and some may be contaminated or rancid. If you need a high dose, it may be more convenient to pick one with a higher concentration so that you can take fewer and/or smaller pills or other units. Compare prices to save money. Be mindful of added ingredients, like vitamin D, so you don’t unintentionally exceed tolerable intake limits for these. Store oils out of heat and light — refrigeration is a good idea.
- Although generally safe, high amounts of EPA and DHA may suppress the immune system. It’s best to limit daily intake of EPA and DHA from supplements to no more than 2 grams, unless medically indicated. Fish oil may also thin the blood and slightly lower blood pressure.
CL’s price research for some fish oil sources of EPA and DHA tend to be more expensive. Here they are in order, based on increasing cost to get 100 mg of EPA and DHA from quality-approved products:
- Algal oil — Lowest cost was Ovega-3 (7 cents/100 mg).
- Calamari oil — Lowest cost was Lane Labs EcoOmega (16 cents/100 mg).
- Krill oil (the most expensive source) — Lowest cost was NutriGold Double Strength Krill Gold (24 cents/100 mg). ConsumerLab.com also tested the amounts of phospholipids in these products, as these naturally occur with krill oil and appear to enhance absorption of EPA and DHA. NutriGold had its claimed 470 mg per softgel, Mercola had its claimed 200 mg, and MegaRed had its claimed 130 mg. Although not tested, all three claimed amounts of astaxanthin, an antioxidant pigment which occurs in krill. Interestingly, Nutrigold and Mercola each listed much more astaxanthin per softgel (840 mcg and 500 mcg, respectively) than MegaRed (17 mcg), although the astaxanthin in MegaRed is natural from the krill oil while the astaxanthin in Nutrigold and Mercola are likely to have been added. A fish/krill blend (Dr. Sears’ Primal Force Ultra Omeganol) costs less than some of the krill-only products (33 cents/100 mg), but its labeling does not specify how much krill oil is in the product, as opposed to fish oil. It includes added astaxanthin.
To subscribe to CL reports email Membership@ConsumerLab.com.
Full CL report at https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/fish_oil_supplements_review/omega3/