As anyone who has experienced the particular yuck factor of fishy burps as a consequence of taking fish oil knows, not all omega-3 formulas are created equal. Since omega-3s might well be the most important supplement you take, it’s worth being especially discriminating when choosing a brand that can deliver.
Omega-3 (e.g., EPA, DHA) formulas have huge qualitative differences: the amount of omega-3s they actually contain as well as the stealth inclusion of harmful toxins that have no business being in your supplement. In fact, regular consumption of a poor quality, oxidized fish oil could dramatically increase oxidative damage and inflammation. Here are some things to look out for:
Some fish oil products may contain excessive levels of harmful toxins, such as heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs). They may also contain potentially harmful bacteria (e.g., salmonella), yeast and mold. To address this, fish oil manufacturers use a process called molecular distillation to remove the toxins from the oil. When done correctly, molecular distillation is capable of reducing the toxins in fish oil to levels considered to be safe by the EPA and other agencies.
Work around: Look for a product that not only has been molecularly distilled, but has also undergone third party testing and offers a purity guarantee, such as Omegagenics. Omegagenics has their third-party assays conducted by Eurofins but also worth checking out is the International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS) which rates many brands of fish oil for compliancy.
Fish oil is unstable and can easily spoil. Some companies may not test adequately for rancidity in production or take extra steps to protect the product during storage, transport and normal use.
Work around: Look for a fish oil that is third-party tested for rancidity and which uses natural antioxidants to maintain freshness.
With lax labeling requirements, some products may not actually contain the amount of omega-3s listed on labels. You don’t actually get the promised benefits, and it may compromise your health.
Work around: When you are deciding on a fish oil brand, you want your omega-3s concentrated—not diluted. Look for third-party testing to assure that the label has integrity and offers dependable value.
While fish oil should smell like the ocean, it doesn’t mean it should have a fishy odor, which is usually a sign of rancidity.
Work around: Choose a brand that uses clean oils as a base. If you prefer having the taste slightly masked, many companies add natural fruit flavors and enteric-coated options to make them taste even better.