Why is quality important if I take a fish oil supplement?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
It is important to take good fish oil supplements to prevent exposure to toxins. Mercury used to be a concern many years ago but fish oil in the US is for the most part mercury free. However, recently high levels of PCB’s have been found in some of the popular brands of fish oil. Most of the products were from cod liver or shark liver. 

The liver is an organ that detoxifies the fish so it makes sense that these products would contain more toxins. PCB’s can increase the risk of cancer, birth defects and skin ailments. Therefore, it is important to take a good fish oil that is toxin free. In addition, poor quality fish oil often leaves a fishy after taste.   

Fish oil can lower triglycerides, improve mood and inflammation. So, it is important to take if your doctor recommends it. It is equally important that you become an educated consumer and find a good, toxin-free brand.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review fish oil supplements -- or any supplements -- before they go to market. It is up to manufacturers to make sure that the product is safe and effective, contains the ingredients on the label and can live up to its health claims. It's possible that some fish oil supplements don't contain the amount or type of fish oil listed in the ingredients. A supplement could also contain contaminants.

Talk to your doctor before taking fish oil supplements and, if you decide to take them, choose a product from a well-known supplement manufacturer. Contact the manufacturer if you have questions or concerns.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.