Something Fishy in your Fish Oil?

The increasing awareness around the wide-ranging benefits of fish oil mean chances are either you or someone close to you is taking a fish oil product. Their therapeutic effects are widely accepted by both the lay and medical communities alike and they are readily available to purchase in health food stores, pharmacies and even supermarkets. Nevertheless, are you getting precisely what you bargained for in terms of both efficacy and purity when you purchase that mega-tub of fish oil from your local supermarket?

A high quality fish oil supplement is the ideal source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. However, not all fish oils provide the same benefits. The active constituents in fish oil, known as EPA and DHA, are used in varying therapeutic amounts for different health concerns. For example, EPA assists in relieving the pain and inflammation of mild arthritis, helps maintain cardiovascular health and plays a role in mood regulation. DHA supports normal healthy brain development, improves memory and cognition, and is important for the health of your nervous system. A high quality, high strength fish oil may also help you maintain a normal ratio between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ types of cholesterol as well as help maintain normal triglyceride levels.

The label on your tub may claim each fish oil capsule contains ‘1000 mg of fish oil’ but consider how much of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are you actually getting? As your Practitioner I may recommend a prescription fish oil with high concentrations of EPA (up to 2000 mg per dose) and DHA (up to 800 mg per dose) to help with your specific health needs, and can advise you which fish oil is most appropriate for your particular health concern.

Ask yourself, ‘What else could be lurking in that budget brand fish oil that may be bad for my health?’ ‘Is there anything in there that could be harmful, such as toxins and impurities?’ Larger fish found higher up the aquatic food chain can harbour environmental pollutants such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and pesticides, which may accumulate in your body over time. The resultant toxicity may actually contribute to health complaints. I strongly recommend products which guarantee superior levels of purity and quality by using only small pelagic fish, such as sardines and anchovies, which do not accumulate the same levels of environmental toxins that the much larger fish tend to store over their lifespan. I would also recommend a product that has undergone a process called ‘molecular distillation’, which removes impurities and pollutants that may potentially be present. Such a product would typically result in purity levels exceeding the Australian manufacturing standards. 

When fish oils are exposed to heat, air or light they can become oxidised or ‘turn rancid’. Oxidised fish oils not only smell and taste unpleasant, but also have reduced health benefits and may even be harmful in some cases. I recommend products manufactured using a process called ‘nitrogen flushing’, which protects the oils from oxidation. The finished product is then tested for the indicators of oxidation or ‘freshness’, again resulting in levels exceeding Australian manufacturing standards. By choosing a fish oil with the lowest indicators of oxidation you gain the greatest health benefits from your fish oil.

Today most consumers are aware that fish need to be sourced sustainably to protect our marine environment. I recommend products certified by Friend of the Sea, an independent organisation that tests and certifies products made with ingredients sourced using sustainable fishing practices that minimise environmental impact. 

Whether you need help to relieve the pain of mild arthritis, are wanting to improve your memory and cognitive function, or would like to maintain normal cholesterol levels and a healthy cardiovascular system, a high quality fish oil supplement can help. By sourcing a product with the highest quality and purity you can be confident that you are getting the best therapeutic results and most value for money from your fish oil.