Consumer Reports Raises Questions About Some Fish Oil Brands

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.

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.

Is fish oil right for you?

  • Consumer Reports says it might help people with high levels of triglycerides, an artery-clogging fat that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.  Fish oil may reduce those levels by 20 to 50 percent. People who have coronary heart disease should also consider taking it. Fish oil may lower their risk of a second heart attack, possibly because it slows or slightly reverses hardening of the coronary arteries.
  • And while the evidence isn't overwhelming, the supplements might modestly lower high blood pressure, ease menstrual and rheumatoid arthritis pain, and may even improve symptoms of ADHD and asthma in children.  They might also help with osteoporosis, kidney disease, bipolar disorder, and Raynaud's syndrome, a rare disorder that affects blood vessels in the fingers and toes.   
  • Research to date has not shown fish oil to be very effective for many common ailments.  There   isn't enough evidence to say whether fish oil protects against Alzheimer's disease, heart arrhythmia, depression, dry eyes, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, pregnancy complications, or cancer.
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