ConsumerLab releases omega-3 test results

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acid

Independent product tester has given the thumbs up to almost 50 omega-3 dietary supplements and functional foods for delivering on dosage and being contaminant-free.

The report, released today, is the group’s most comprehensive analysis of fish oils to date, said ConsumerLab president Tod Cooperman. The large majority (85 percent) of visitors to the organization's site are consumers looking for independent information on which products to purchase.

A total of 50 omega-3 fish oil supplements, foods and beverages were tested for contaminants and dosage (including two marketed for pets). Out of these, 23 were randomly selected by ConsumerLab to provide a “snapshot”​ of the market based on popular products found at different retail outlets. The other 27 products were tested at the request of their manufacturers, through ConsumerLab’s Voluntary Certification Program.

According to the results, all products met their label claims in regard to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) levels, with levels ranging from16 mg in a yogurt product to 1,000mg in a single pill.

In addition, all of the products tested were free of contaminants common in fish, including mercury, lead and PCBs. These contaminants have been associated with fish oil supplements in the past, and Consumerlab suggested cleaner fish stocks as well as improved processing had contributed to the glowing report card.

Not approved

All products tested bar one supplement brand and one product for pets received an approval rating from ConsumerLab.

The supplement brand that did not pass was Kirkland Signature Enteric Coated Fish Oil 1700 mg Concentrated Fish Oil. This, said ConsumerLab, was found to contain the level of EPA and DHA that it claimed, but it failed the enteric-coating test because it released its fish oil too early.

In accordance with ConsumerLab’s certification program guidelines, the group is able to announce the positive test results of brands that are volunteered by their manufacturers, but any negative results remain confidential.

Cooperman would not confirm if any of the omega-3 products provided for testing by their manufacturers failed the approval rating, but said that a clear indication of the state of the industry can be received from the 23 randomly selected products tested by the group.

In addition, he noted that the report clearly identifies which products were volunteered, and which were selected.

Questions raised

The report also took issue with some food and drink products that claimed to provide portions of a daily intake of omega-3s, when such a value has yet to be established.

According to ConsumerLab, fortified foods and beverages including Tropicana with Omega-3​, Silk Soymilk Plus Omega-3 DHA​, Yoplait Kids Yogurt with DHA​, and the Aristo​ nutrition bar stated on labels that they supplied certain percentages of the ‘Daily Value’ of 160 mg for EPA and DHA.

“These statements are incorrect,”​ said ConsumerLab. “A Daily Value has not been established for EPA and/or DHA. Silk Soymilk Plus Omega-3 DHA ​also touted "400 mg beneficial Omega-3" above its Nutrition Facts panel, but only at the bottom of the other side of the carton did it note, in tiny letters, that just 32 mg of the total omega-3 is DHA. Testing found the remainder to be ALA.”

The160mg daily benchmark value was provided by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in its Dietary Reference Intakes for Macronutrients​, published in 2002. However, other organizations, such as the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids and the American Dietetic Association, recommend a minimum combined intake of 500 mg/day EPA and DHA to support heart health.

According to Robert Orr, president and CEO of leading omega-3 supplier Ocean Nutrition and also chair of GOED (the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3) said this highlights the need for national guidelines for omega-3 intake.

The issue is not so much which levels are currently being thrown around as reference levels, but the need to establish an RDI, he suggested. “The focus needs to be on the fact that there is a huge dietary deficiency,” ​he told earlier today.

Brands tested

Brands included in the ConsumerLab report are: Advocare, Aristo, Berkley & Jensen (BJ’s), Carlson, Coromega, CVS, Eniva, GNC, Health from the Sea, Iceland Health, Integrative Therapeutics, Jarrow, Great American Products, Healthy Hide, Kirkland (Costco), Lipiderm, Mega Smarts, Minami, Mommy’s Bliss, Natural Factors, Nature Made, Nature’s Bounty, Nature’s Sunshine, New Chapter, Nordic Naturals, Now, Nutramax, Nutri-Supreme, OmegaBrite, Omega-Gel, Origin (Target), PharmAssure, Pharmanex, Pure Encapsulations, Puritan’s Pride, Shaklee, Silk (WhiteWave), Spring Valley (Wal-Mart) Sundown, Swanson, Tropicana, Twinlab, USANA, Vital Oils, Vitamin Shoppe, Vitamin World, Wegmans, Weil, and Yoplait.

To access the report, click here​.

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