There is only one way to say this. Don’t fall for ponzi schemes that try to tell you that there is no other fish oil better than theirs and you can find it only on some unknown website. Be suspicious about these so called best fish oils, particularly when these can’t be found in trusted stores like Vitamin Shoppe, Whole Foods, Wild Oats and other natural food stores.
I am also not saying that everything you find in a major store is all of equal quality. Most stores would carry a range of brands offering choice in terms of price and quality. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to still look for a more mainstream brand, a brand name that is easily recognized for its quality. If a supplement has been really of good quality, chances are it has been in the news, and it has won some awards. I can think of ConsumerLab awards and recognition, meeting international standards such as IFOS – International Fish Oil Standards, European Pharmacopeia standards (EPS), Norwegian Medicinal Standard (NMS) or the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). A mainstream brand should at least meet 2 – 3 international standards.
The USP is relatively new for fish oils and most of the major brands are not yet participating in this program. The USP standards are also not as strict as the EPS or NMS since dietery supplements have a different standard in the US compared to prescription medicinal standards. When compared to Europe, there is no fish oil standard in the US. In fact, the Norwegian Medicinal Standard is one of the strictest in the world for dietery supplements. The regulation in the US is much more loose around supplements simply because they are classified differently as “food” and not “drugs”. It is better to look for a product that meets EPS or NMS and the IFOS standards as these are typically of much better quality. When discussing product quality, purity is a significant concern among fish oil supplement users. Some information on international standards is below which outline the limits.
- For heavy metals EPS, NMS, standards are set to 100 ppb (100 parts per billion). However, high quality fish oils are tested down to less than 10 ppb for heavy metals.
- For Dioxins. the NMS and EPS standard is 2 ppt (2 parts per trillion). High quality brands are usually tested down to 0.5 ppt with zero detection of dioxins.
- For PCB, EPS does not set a standard but the Norwegian Medicinal Standard (NMS) sets the limit to 3 ppt and quality brands test these to less than 1 ppt.
This information should be easily accessible on the manufacturer’s website and 3rd party testing sites if the company is truly transparent about its manufacturing process and testing results. If these are not easily accessible, then you know that they are not of such high quality. If the results are so good, there is no better marketing tool for the manufacturer and they will readily display it on the label and on their websites.
The advantage of going mainstream is such easy access to product quality information and also product recall information if any also being easily available. Another way to recognize a mainstream brand is to look for endorsements by highly qualified individuals including doctors, researchers, and non-profit groups.
In summary, fish oil supplements are mainstream with over 8000 published medical research articles to date on their uses and it is safe to choose a mainstream brand that has a reputation for quality and transparency.