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Choosing a quality and sustainable fish oil
Date: 2020-02-04
Author: Jillian Foster BHSc (Nat), BMedia (Writing), AdvDipNat
Access: Public

Fish oil has become very popular as more and more research is published supporting its use in a variety of health conditions, including cardiovascular health, joint support, mild pain and inflammation, cognitive function and pregnancy.1

Not all fish oils are created equal, however. There can be a vast difference in the quality of fish oil available and it’s important to find out the purity and quality standards of your daily omega-3 oil.2

Why is purity and sustainability important?
Purity is important to ensure your fish oil is not only safe but also effective. Just like any other oil, fish oil can become oxidised when exposed to heat and light. Oxidation generates free radicals that can affect the quality and shelf life of the product making it less effective.1,2

Commercial fish oil can also become contaminated with heavy metals and environmental toxins (including plastics, pesticides and dioxins).3 While the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has developed guidelines on minimum levels of contaminants and heavy metals in fish oil supplements, we believe these can be improved on.

As consumer demand for fish oil increases so does the need to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies for the future. Fisheries can be assessed independently to ensure sustainable fish stocks, the minimisation of environmental impact and the effective management of fisheries. In addition to this, there are projects continuing worldwide that require supplements to have well managed sources of fish oil, traceability, no GMO and social accountability.

Choosing a quality and sustainable omega-3 supplement
An easy way to test your daily fish oil is to taste and smell the oil – if it has a strong fishy odour, then it’s likely rancid. Another common side effect of rancidity can be fishy burps.

Before you buy your omega-3 supplement look for certification and company partnerships with the following leading organisations:
• Global Organisation for EPA and DHA omega (GOED): a peak industry body for the promotion of safe and quality omega-3 sources. They have developed a voluntary monograph outlining required standards for levels of oxidation, environmental contaminants and the measurement of EPA and DHA. These standards are the benchmark for quality in the global industry.4
• Marine Stewardship Council (MSC): an international not for profit organisation working to protect oceans and safeguard future seafood supplies. The MSC is the only wild-capture fisheries certification and ecolabelling program that meets best practice requirements set by both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and ISEAL, and the first global certification program recognised by Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) for rigour and credibility. Look out for their blue logo on your omega-3 products.5
• International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS): offers product testing to the highest quality, safety and purity standards in the world. Analysis is conducted by independent third party laboratories for contaminants, stability, oxidation and active ingredients.6


1. Cameron-Smith D, Albert BB, Cutfield WS. Fishing for answers: is oxidation of fish oil supplements a problem?. J Nutr Sci. 2015;4:e36. Published 2015 Nov 23. doi:10.1017/jns.2015.26
2. Monique Heller, Luke Gemming, Chin Tung & Ross Grant (2019) Oxidation of fish oil supplements in Australia, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 70:5, 540-550, DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2018.1542666
3. Hong MY, Lumibao J, Mistry P, Saleh R, Hoh E. Fish Oil Contaminated with Persistent Organic Pollutants Reduces Antioxidant Capacity and Induces Oxidative Stress without Affecting Its Capacity to Lower Lipid Concentrations and Systemic Inflammation in Rats. J Nutr. 2015;145(5):939–944. doi:10.3945/jn.114.206607
4. John T.E. Rebry R.M. et al. Measurement of Environmental Contaminants in a Globally-Representative Sample of Fish Oil Supplements. Nutrasource Diagnostics Inc. Ontario, Canada. GOED, Utah, USA.
5. Marine Stewardship Council. Viewed 10/01/2020.
6. Nutrasource. Viewed 10/01/2020.

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