Without question, one of the most important dietary supplement categories in North America today is fish oils. As a result, it is a very competitive situation as all of the manufacturers claim their product is the best in order to carve out a share of the marketplace. Often, the retailer is left in the middle, wondering how to effectively evaluate the myriad of fish oil products and their claims. To help with this evaluation, here are some answers to common questions I am frequently asked about fish oil quality.
Q: What are the big quality issues with fish oil supplements?
A: Just as there are serious health risks with fish consumption due to environmental contamination, there are identical risks with fish oil supplements. In fact, since most of the toxins are fat-soluble, there is a tremendous risk for high levels of exposure when consuming inferior fish oil products.
Q: What is a “pharmaceutical grade” fish oil?
A: Pharmaceutical grade fish oil refers to a highly concentrated form of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that is free from lipid peroxides, heavy metals, environmental contaminants and other harmful compounds. It is, however, a relatively recent development and there are no official criteria for the term “pharmaceutical grade.” For this reason, there is no guarantee of a product’s quality simply because it makes this claim on the label, meaning further investigation is necessary to establish the true quality.
Let me explain the suggested criteria of a pharmaceutical grade fish oil by using the product I recommend, Rx Omega-3 Factors®:
• It is manufactured in a GMP-certified facility approved for pharmaceutical products.
• It is manufactured according to pharmaceutical standards that include quality control steps to ensure the product is free from lipid peroxides, heavy metals, environmental contaminants and other harmful compounds.
• It provides more than 60% concentration of the most active long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).
• The ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to arachidonic acid is greater than 50:1.
• It provides the EPA and DHA in the most extensively researched form.
Q: What is the fish source of Rx Omega-3 Factors®?
A: The crude bulk fish oil that is the primary raw material used in the production of Rx Omega-3 Factors is a mixture of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids extracted from multiple marine fish species caught off the coast of Peru. These fish species include anchovy, sardine and mackerel. These small bait fish are a sustainable resource through strict enforcement of fishing regulations by the Peruvian government. These fish thrive off the coast of Peru thanks to a nutrient-rich marine environment where the cold water of the Antarctic mixes with the warm water of the Pacific.
For several reasons, this Peruvian fish source is preferred over other sources such as Atlantic cod. The problem with cod is that it is a larger fish that has had a longer time to accumulate environmental toxins. Cod is also not a sustainable source as there is scarcely enough of this fish available to meet the demand of the world market for fish oil.
Studies have shown inherently that cod liver oil contains higher levels of contamination compared with fish oils produced from the whole body of small fish like sardines and anchovies.
Q: What quality control processes are involved in producing Rx Omega-3 Factors®?
A: Quality control testing on Rx Omega-3 Factors reflects the most extensive testing of any fish oil product on the market. While many companies send their fish oil out to other labs for complete analysis, Natural Factors possesses state-of-the-art analytical equipment within their own quality control laboratories. The following tests are performed to ensure the highest quality fish oil on the market:
• Lipid peroxide and secondary oxidation products measure the amount of damaged fats
• Testing for over 300 environmental contaminants including dioxins, PCBs, pesticide residues and other toxic compounds
• Strict measurements of heavy metals including lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury
Rx Omega-3 Factors exceeds all quality control requirements for fish oils as expressed by government organizations (FDA, Health Canada, European Union, TGA, etc.), the World Health Organization, United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and trade organizations (Council for Responsible Nutrition, GOED, etc). The bottom line is that there is not a higher quality or more thoroughly tested fish oil on the market.
Q: How much omega-3 fatty acids are needed to improve health?
A: There is a tremendous amount of research looking at the heart health benefits of fish oils. Based upon this extensive body of science, researchers have determined that the amount of EPA and DHA required to achieve sufficient levels in the blood for long-term heart health is a combined total of 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA daily. This level is regarded as a general health target by many experts. When there is an increased need for EPA and DHA, the suggested usage is 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA daily.
The primary reason that I endorse and recommend Rx Omega-3 Factors from Natural Factors is that I know, first hand, the steps taken to make it such an exceptional fish oil. And, while other suppliers do not actually manufacture their own fish oil capsules, Natural Factors is one of North America’s largest producers of dietary supplements in softgel capsules. Without the extra step in the supply chain, your customers can enjoy greater value as Rx Omega-3 Factors undoubtedly offers the highest purity at the best price.
Michael T. Murray, N.D., is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities in the field of natural medicine. He is a graduate, former faculty member and serves on the Board of Regents of Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. Dr. Murray is the author of over 30 books including co-author of the revised, 3rd edition of the best-selling The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. His other books include What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know, How to Prevent and Treat Diabetes with Natural Medicine and Hunger Free Forever. Dr. Murray is also Director of Product Development and Education for Natural Factors Nutritional Products.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, September 2013