There is much confusion about quality and thus the health benefits of Omega-3 products. Many manufacturers choose deliberately to mislead customers. In Norway there have been TV programson Norwegian fish oil production in Peru and Chile showing the low product- and ethical standards both for the environment and the workers involved.
The only safe way is to adhere to measurable standards and research-based facts.
Fish oil quality is measured by standard:
Pollutants / toxins, including PCBs-like substance is measured in picograms / gram. This should not exceed 2.0 (EU standard). In 2005 a survey showed that 33% of products on the Norwegian market were at a higher level and had to be pulled from the market immediately. The industry has been forced to sharpen up, and today products on the Norwegian market are within the limit. Arctic cod has a naturally lower level of toxins than fish from warmer and more polluted waters.
Oxidation levels are measured in TOTOX. Anisidine (AV) and Peroxide (PV) are markers of rancidity. PVx2 + AV = TOTOX
Classification for oxidation standards in fish oil:
|Very rancid oil||25,6||37,5||100,6|
3. LOOK, SMELL AND TASTE:
Organoleptic test. The oil is judged for lightness, smell and taste. Oil made from fresh raw materials has no bad taste.
RUBIN Report no.196, 2011, Norway.
“Low oxidation levels in Omega-3 oils and potential health benefits”
Of the 56 oils were analyzed, there were only 4 products within the limit set by the GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA) organisation itself: Peroxide (PV) less than 5 and anisidine value (AV ) less than 20.
All oils from Anchoveta from South America (18 (% DHA) / 12 (% EPA) oils), 13 concentrated fish oils, two northern European fish oils and 4 seal oils had TOTOX higher than 26.
Most capsules are concentrates.
Oils on the Norwegian market:
The table shows the variations in rancidity:
Variation in oxidation of DS quality in tested oils:
|18/12-oils (From South Amerika)||8.7 – 34||7.3 – 39.8||30.9 – 113.6|
|Concentrated fish oils||6.2 – 19.9||5.3 – 27.9||17.7 – 70.6|
|Northern Europne fish oils||2.1 – 11.2||4 – 23.5||10.8 – 58.2|
|Seal oils||3.1 – 6.7||0.8 – 16.1||8.1 – 38.8|
|Shark Liver oil||2.9 – 9.6||5.3 – 7.4||17.1 – 24.2|
Marine oils have a high content of healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids susceptible to oxidation. This gives rise to bad taste and smell of the products and an uncertainty of the health benefit for the consumer. Oxidation is a continuous process and can often lie dormant until it increases exponentially. The quality of the raw material is essential.
-A high quality fish oil tastes like a cooking oil. (p.9)
-The Best method for measuring oxidation is to use a qualified taste panel. (P.10)
“In addition to oils intended for the Dietary Supplement(DS) market, some Functional Food oils (FF-oils) were analyzed. These oils tend to have a different story and processing and can not be directly compared with the conventional health food products.
The “functional food” oil products have for example a PV less than 1 and is made from very fresh raw material. Since these oils differ so much, we have not brought them into the study. Partly because of price,these oils are normally not included in the health food segment. “(p.15)
Regulations on fish powder, fish oil etc. from 1999 does not deal with oxidation.
There is currently no quality requirements for the oxidation of fish oils sold in Norway.
Pharmaceuticals requirements of cod liver oil and 18/12 oils are: PV less than 10 and AV less than 30.
Norway in 2006 traded Omega-3 products for half a billion NOK, and with 22% of the market, it becomes the best-selling health food product.
In this market the oil producers themselves are responsible for control of oxidation quality. (p.11)
Within EU regulations fish stored without refrigeration can be up to 36 hours old from harvesting to processing and still ment for human consumption (Commission Regulation (EC) No 1020/2008). (p.12)
Most stores have minimal knowledge of treatment and storage of fish oil products.
The declaration on the concentrates did not tell neither specified type of fish oil nor fatty acid form (natural or artificial). (p.14)
Rancid oil can lead to loss of EPA and DHA.(p.38) and loss of fat in cell membrans (p40). Good fat is essential and demanding for the cell function and all communication between them.
The study also shows that the cells have a too high level of oxidized fat and that the activity of the antioxidants (SOD) in the are decreasing(p 42). Worst out in oxidation and inflammation were the cells given ethyl esters (FSEE)(p51)
This study that is based on cells from the intestine, shows that Omega-3 has an inhibitory effect on cancer cells. (Fukunaga et al, 2008). High quality oils have a higher inhibitory effect than oils of bad quality. (p.55)
Studies on health effects.
The connection between oxidative damage and development of disease is reflected in numerous publications. (Blom Hoff et al, 2004, Staff and Halvorsen 2003 Turner et al, 2006).
Omega-3 oils have well documented health effects on humans
– Normal development of the nervous system and retina in new born babies
– Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
– Control of chronic inflammation
– Prevention of cancer
– Prevention of mental health problems