Fish oil, with its high levels of the salubrious omega-3 fatty acid, is one of the most commonly consumed health supplements in Australia and New Zealand.
However, according to new research, the vast majority of fish oil supplements available do not contain the level of active ingredients they claim to, rendering them largely ineffective.
‘We found that about two-thirds of the omega-3 supplements had two-thirds or less of the active ingredients that they claimed to have on the label,’ senior researcher Professor Wayne Cutfield told Summer Breakfast.
‘We then looked at the degradation of omega-3 acids … and found that approximately half [of the supplements tested]exceeded the international recommendations for oxidation levels.’
Of the 32 brands of fish oil capsules they studied, researchers found that only 10 per cent of the supplements successfully passed all of their product tests.
While Professor Cutfield said the findings didn’t necessarily demonstrate any adverse health effects, he said the research serves as a call for better regulation of the industry.
‘This isn’t just an issue for omega-3 fish oils, it’s for all dietary supplements to be better regulated, so consumers can confidently know that what they are receiving is what is in fact claimed,’ he said.
Professor Cutfield said the cost of the supplement made no difference.
‘There was no relationship between price and quality. Even the best-before date wasn’t protective,’ he said.
For true believers, Professor Cutfield offered some practical advice on how to maximise the effectiveness of fish oil capsules.
‘It would make sense to store them away from the light and in the fridge, and not in a huge container,’ he said.
Ultimately, though, he said there was only one way for consumers to ensure they received the right dose of omega-3.
‘The best solution is to eat fresh fish.’