In lab tests of 15 top-selling brands of fish oil supplements, Consumer Reports found that five fell a bit short on quality. Fish oil supplements have become wildly popular, with consumers taking them to treat a long list of ailments including menstrual cramps, heart disease, asthma, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, depression, psoriasis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and pregnancy complications.
“Fish oil is not a cure-all. If you’re considering a fish oil supplement, we recommend that you talk to your doctor first to find out if it’s the right treatment for you.” – Ronni Sandroff editorial director Health and Family Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports sent three lots of top selling brands purchased online or in New York area stores to an outside lab to evaluate whether they contained the listed amount of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, whether they properly disintegrated, whether they showed signs of spoilage, and whether they contained any contaminants, such as lead, mercury, dioxins, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The results were, one or more samples from five brands didn’t meet all of those quality standards.
The version of this story that appeared in the January 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine also reported that CR’s tests found “elevated levels of compounds that indicate spoilage” in samples from Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega 1000mg (180 count). Just as digital versions of the story were being readied for publication, however, the company challenged that conclusion based on the fact that its product includes natural lemon oil as a flavoring.
Upon further review, CR found that the industry-standard spoilage test cannot reliably detect spoilage in products with lemon oil, and CR was unable to identify any current well-established methodology for doing so. (Nordic Naturals was the only lemon-flavored product in CR’s study.) Because the spoilage test cannot be applied, CR couldn’t keep Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega in a report that required all products to undergo all tests. Nordic Naturals did meet every other quality measure in the study. The pills contained their labeled amount of omega-3 fatty acids and met other U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) and European Union standards including those for contaminants such as lead, mercury, and dioxins. They also met the stricter California Proposition 65 standard for total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). A correction will appear in the February 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The story has already been corrected at www.consumerreports.org.
Even the brands that did pass CR’s tests contained measurable levels of most of the contaminants, though many have labels claiming they’re free of impurities such as mercury and PCBs. The levels measured didn’t exceed USP or European Union limits or raise health concerns.