Do you take fish oil? Chances are you do, if you’re the kind of person who takes a proactive approach to caring for your health. After all, the benefits of supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids are hard to ignore. But how much is the fish oil brand you take really doing for your health? You might be surprised to learn that taking a subpar fish oil supplement can actually cause more harm than good.
America’s Favorite Supplement
Fish oil is the most popular supplement in America, because just about everyone knows that the omega-3 fats found in fish oil can help your heart, brain, joints, eyes and skin. Unfortunately, many supplement manufacturers take advantage of this fact, trying to pass off pills filled with toxins like mercury and that contain pathetically low levels of the important omega-3s, EPA and DHA, as something that could actually be good for your health. Some of these pills don’t even contain fish oil at all, and some contain rancid, oxidized oil.
In recent lab tests, Consumer Reports found that 1 in 3 fish oil supplements fell short. The problem is not limited to discount brands. Even many expensive brands sold by well-known stores are just not up to par.
Is Your Fish Oil Rancid?
You’ve probably heard about the dangers of consuming oxidized fats, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. Well, guess what? If the fish oil you take is not made with special measures, you are most certainly consuming these harmful fats in every pill, endangering your health each and every day.
Most people don’t know that omega-3s have a unique molecular structure that makes them very prone to oxidation, which transforms them from health-promoting fats to health-destroying rancid trans-fats when they are exposed to light and heat. Most manufacturers ignore this simple scientific fact in the interest of rapid, inexpensive mass production.
There are several measures that manufacturers can take to avoid creating rancid fish oil:
- Molecular distillation, the only method of purifying the oil without the use of heat
- Encapsulating the oil in a dark softgel that limits light exposure
- Combining omega-3s with antioxidants like CoQ10, tocopherols and tocotrienols (natural forms of vitamin E)
CoQ10: The “Extra” You Need for Heart Health
Omega-3s have some pretty impressive proven cardiovascular health benefits, but in my opinion, any fish oil supplement worth its salt should contain CoQ10. When it comes to protecting heart health, CoQ10 and omega-3s are a match made in heaven.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is best known as the “spark plug” that fuels cellular energy production, especially in the heart. Every cell in your body needs CoQ10 to function optimally, yet unfortunately, levels decline with age, which can severely compromise your heart function and energy levels. By the age of 50, your CoQ10 levels may be too low to support optimal heart function. What’s worse, the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs so many people take to protect their hearts severely deplete CoQ10 levels.
Natural Vitamin E Helps Fish Oil Balance Cholesterol
For a healthy cardiovascular system, you need strong, pliable blood vessels that allow blood to circulate freely throughout your body, delivering vital oxygen and nourishment to every cell. Maintaining balanced levels of LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol is vital to keeping your blood vessels healthy. The trouble starts when LDL cholesterol oxidizes, building up inside your blood vessels and arteries and causing them to harden.
Breakthrough research has shown that the natural tocopherol and tocotrienol forms of vitamin E vitamin E can actually block LDL oxidation while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, making natural vitamin E one of the most effective antioxidant approaches for balancing cholesterol. Natural vitamin E “soaks up” and neutralizes the free radicals that can oxidize cholesterol.[10,11]
Ideally, your fish oil should contain natural vitamin E for maximum heart health benefits. Tocopherols and tocotrienols also act as natural preservatives, protecting the freshness of the oil and preventing oxidation.
Feed Your Brain with Omega-3s and Vitamin D
Omega-3s, and especially DHA, keep your brain nourished and in good working order. DHA is vital to the healthy production of neurotransmitters that control mood and cognitive function. But there is a nutrient that isn’t found in fish oil that can do wonders for your brain when taken together with omega-3s, and nutrient is vitamin D. Research has linked low levels of vitamin D to mood imbalances, so the more of the sunshine vitamin you get each day, the sunnier your disposition is likely to be.[13,14]
The Benefits of Omega-3s Are Too Good to Ignore
Every cell in your body requires sufficient omega-3s to function properly. Yet according to many experts, nearly all Americans are critically deficient in omega-3s, which makes us vulnerable to a whole host of health complaints ranging from the annoying to the deadly.
When you replenish your omega-3 levels by taking high quality fish oil, you’ll begin to notice amazing improvements. People consistently report instant benefits such as better mood and memory, reduced joint pain, more youthful skin, stronger nails, improved vision, fewer colds and better cholesterol ratios. And these anecdotes are all supported by thousands of clinical studies!
At this point, you may be wondering why anyone would even think twice about taking fish oil. But the truth is that there is a reason to think twice about taking just any fish oil.
Fish Oil Is Extremely Safe — as Long as It’s Not Laced with Poison
There’s no question that omega-3s found in fish oil are extremely beneficial to virtually every aspect of health. Where those omega-3s come from is of the utmost importance, however. Experts estimate that upwards of 20 trillion gallons of toxins and pollutants find their way into our waterways each year, and these toxins naturally find their way into the fish and fish oil we consume for heath.[16,17]
Here are some of the dangerous toxins found in fish and low-quality fish oil:
- Mercury, lead, cadmium and other heavy metals: Byproducts of industry linked to heart damage, cognitive problems and cancer.[18,19]
- PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls): A banned chemical known to cause cancer, skin disorders, liver disorders, reproductive problems and birth defects.
- DDT: An extremely toxic type of dioxin that the EPA has linked to cancer and birth defects.
- Pharmaceutical drug residues: Recent EPA study found residues of drugs used to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, depression and more in fish in the United States.
Which Fish Is Best? A Simple Rule of Thumb
You hear a lot of opinions about what type of fish makes the best fish oil supplements. Let me put this argument to rest. The answer is wild cold-water fish — and the smaller the fish, the better. These fish are lower on the food chain, which means that there is less time for heavy metals and other toxins to become concentrated in their bodies. Therefore, oil from smaller fish requires less processing to make it extremely pure and potent. The result is the freshest, purest omega-3-rich oil possible.
The Only Way to Get Clean, Pure Fish Oil
How can you be sure that you are safely benefiting your health without having to worry about slowly poisoning your body with pollution? An advanced process called molecular distillation is currently the only known method for eliminating 100% of toxins and contaminants in fish oil without damaging its delicate omega-3s. Due to the expense associated with it, most manufacturers do not put their fish oil products through this critical process. As a result, regular old fish oil is typically impure, and often rancid. If the bottle does not have the words “molecularly distilled” on the label, please do not take it.
A New Industry Standard for Omega-3s
There’s a new fish oil supplement called Omega-T® that sets a new industry standard for purity, potency, freshness and sustainability. The concentrated marine oil used in Omega-T is obtained in an environmentally sensitive manner and is carefully processed using what is the only known method for removing all toxins and contaminants without damaging the delicate omega-3s found in the oil. It’s fortified with tocopherols and tocotrienols (natural forms of vitamin E), CoQ10 and vitamin D, and is enhanced with lipase, an enzyme that aids digestion of omega-3 fats and increases their absorption.
1. Kris-Etherton PM, et al. Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation. 2002; 106: 2747-2757.
2. Laurin D, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. J Alz Dis. 2003; 5(4):315-322.
3. Katz J, et al. A meta-analysis of the analgesic effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation for inflammatory joint pain. PAIN. 2007; 129(1):210-223.
4. Tuo J, et al. A High Omega-3 Fatty Acid Diet Reduces Retinal Lesions in a Murine Model of Macular Degeneration. Am J Path. 175: 799-807.
5. Ho Kim H, et al. Eicosapentaenoic acid inhibits UV-induced MMP-1 expression in human dermal fibroblasts. J Lipid Res. 2005; 46:1712-1720.
7. Effects of antioxidants and humidity on the oxidative stability of microencapsulated fish oil. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society. 2004; 81(4): 355-360.
8. Achim L, et al. Mitochondrial coenzyme Q content and aging. BioFactors. 1999; 9(2-4):199-205.
9. Rundek T, et al. Atorvastatin decreases the coenzyme Q10 level in the blood of patients at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Arch Neurol. 2004; 61:889-92.
11. Tomeo, AC. et al. Antioxidant effects of tocotrienols in patients with hyperlipidemia and carotid stenosis. Lipids. 1995; 30:1179- 1183.
12. Lewis MD, et al. Suicide deaths of active-duty US military and omega-3 fatty-acid status: a case-control comparison. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Aug 23. [Epub ahead of print]
13. Young AJ, et al. Coenzyme Q10: a review of its promise as a neuroprotectant. CNS Spectrums. 2007; 12(1):62-8.
14. Bertone-Johnson ER, et al. Vitamin D intake from foods and supplements and depressive symptoms in a diverse population of older women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 94(4):1104-12.
15. Danaei G et al. The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors. PLoS Med. 2009 Apr 28; 6(4):e1000058.
16. Fisk AT, et al. Biomagnification. Mar Pollut Bull. 2003; 46(4):522-524.
17. Landrum PF and Fisher SW. Influence of lipids on the bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of organic contaminants in aquatic organisms. Chapter 9 in MT Arts and BC Wainman. Lipids in fresh water ecosystems. 1999. Springer Verlag, New York.
18. EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 1997. Mercury Study Report to Congress. Vol. IV: An Assessment of Exposure to Mercury in the United States . EPA-452/R-97-006. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards and Office of Research and Development.
19. Crotea M, et al. 2005. Trophic transfer of metals along freshwater food webs: Evidence of cadmium biomagnification in nature. Limnol Oceanogr. 50 (5): 1511-1519.
21. Webb KS, et al. CCQM-K21 Key Comparison – Determination of pp’-DDT in fish oil. Metrologi. 2003: doi:10.1088/0026- 1394/40/1A/08004.
22. McCracken A, et al. An Investigation of Antibiotic and Drug Residues in Fish. J Appl Microb. 1976: 40(1): 61-66.