Recent news reports seem to indicate that some of them are not.
The health benefits of increasing your omega-3 intake may be numerous. But, the risks could outweigh the benefits if PCBs, mercury or other toxins are present in the food or the dietary supplement.
PCB exposure can cause cancer, liver damage and birth defects.
Mercury is a poisonous heavy metal that can cause hair loss, skin problems, muscle weakness and kidney damage.
Industrial activity and coal-fired electrical plants are the most common cause of environmental contamination.
The most common cause of mercury poisoning is eating contaminated fish.
To date, there are no known cases caused by taking contaminated fish oil tablets. But, people who consume a lot of seafood and also take the supplements could be at an increased risk.
When it comes to PCBs, safe exposure limits have been established. Recent independent testing has revealed that some brands contain amounts that greatly exceed that limit. For that reason, litigation concerning excessive PCB content is currently underway in the state of California. That’s what all the news stories have been about.
I won’t mention any brand names here, since the litigation is still ongoing. The defendants of the case were mentioned in the article, but it really doesn’t matter. There are ways to make sure that you are always getting the highest quality supplements.
The better manufacturers post a copy of their COA (Certificate of Analysis) on their websites. Batch testing for contaminants is not required by law.
Most companies avoid testing, because they have to pay a licensed laboratory to conduct the tests. That can be expensive. So, you can expect to pay just a little more for fish oil tablets that have been tested.
You can also protect yourself by finding out what species was used to create the supplement. Some species are more likely to contain mercury and/or PCBs. Larger species are an example, although small filter or cleaner species like the menhaden are known to contain high levels of PCBs.
Some companies do not list this information on the label, even though it is an important consideration. Not only is it important for your health, but also for the health of the environment.
Over-fishing in the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia and other areas has resulted in ocean “dead zones”, areas where the oxygen content is too low to support life. One of the largest suppliers of fish oil tablets in the US is guilty of using the menhaden, which helps to keep O2 levels stable by cleaning toxins out of the water.
If you choose a good brand, taking a supplement is the most affordable and the safest way to increase your omega-3 intake. Other factors to consider include the total omega-3 content included and the total DHA content. Just because the capsule contains 1000mg of oils does not mean that you are getting 1000mg of omega-3s.
I take fish oil tablets every day, without worry. You can, too, as long as you choose the right brands like Nature Made Fish oil or even Costco fish oil.