Fish Oil in Troubled Waters

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Major fish oil manufacturers and drug stores are being sued for failing to disclose the PCB pollutants in fish oil supplements.

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In one of my videos last year, I noted that the fish oil distillation process was found ineffective at removing all the industrial contaminants from fish oil, so even “PCB-free” fish oil may be anything but.

Isn’t there a law in California, though, that makes it illegal to sell toxic substances that cause cancer or birth defects without at least a warning label? I’ve never seen such a label on fish oil, and neither did the Environmental Justice Foundation, and so they sued CVS, GNC, Rite-Aid, along with the major fish oil manufacturers.

To do so, of course, they had to prove the fish oil you find in stores actually contains PCBs, so they went out and grabbed ten, and tested them. Some had 70 times the PCBs of others, and 240 times the toxicity. 

This is why we should get our long chain omega-3s without any risk of toxins by choosing microalgae or yeast-based EPA/DHA supplements—nutritionally equivalent; a safe and convenient source, without the toxic waste.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

In one of my videos last year, I noted that the fish oil distillation process was found ineffective at removing all the industrial contaminants from fish oil, so even “PCB-free” fish oil may be anything but.

Isn’t there a law in California, though, that makes it illegal to sell toxic substances that cause cancer or birth defects without at least a warning label? I’ve never seen such a label on fish oil, and neither did the Environmental Justice Foundation, and so they sued CVS, GNC, Rite-Aid, along with the major fish oil manufacturers.

To do so, of course, they had to prove the fish oil you find in stores actually contains PCBs, so they went out and grabbed ten, and tested them. Some had 70 times the PCBs of others, and 240 times the toxicity. 

This is why we should get our long chain omega-3s without any risk of toxins by choosing microalgae or yeast-based EPA/DHA supplements—nutritionally equivalent; a safe and convenient source, without the toxic waste.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

For more on fish oil supplements, check out these videos:
Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil?
PCBs in Children’s Fish Oil Supplements
Fish and Diabetes
Red Fish, White Fish; Dark Fish, Atrial Fibrillation

Be sure to check out my other videos on fish oil

For more context, also see my associated blog posts: Soy milk: shake it up! and Probiotics and Diarrhea.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

26 responses to “Fish Oil in Troubled Waters

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  1. Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out the other videos on fish oil. Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!




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    1. Regarding algae oil supplements, I am concerned about rancidification and/or impurities.

      For example, I bought an algae-oil supplement (specifically Ascenta NeutraVege) that states directly on the bottle:

      “Store away from direct heat and light. After opening, refrigerate and consume within 100 days. Product may change appearance when refrigerated.”

      It would be nice to have an evaluation of the risks of these algae-products, preferably from an impartial academic source.




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    2. Can you comment on the recent studies showing increased prostate cancer in people with high levels of DHA. There is an audio link on Vegsource with the lead researcher of the study




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  2. I work at Gnc And I am technically required to sell fish oil. This worries me as I constantly sell whey protein and fish oil for the sake of keeping my job while I’m vegan. Irony? Evil?




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    1. Eric, That’s a common evil a lot of us deal with so you’re not alone. I’m a video editor for a national ad agency so I see a lot of stuff that makes me angry. Especially when it’s fast food tv commercials I’m working on. My girlfriend works for a large pharma corp in clinical trials. Her and I are both Vegan and hate to take even an aspirin much less any other major drug. But at least everything we put in our mouths is a vote for the right stuff. That’s a small something to feel good about. Jobs and careers are very hard to come by these days, so switching to something ethical is especially difficult right now.




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  3. Hi Eric, sorry to hear that this distresses you. It would for me also if I were in your position. Perhaps you can suggest to your customers vegan alternates and you can show them this site or the literature, including the dangers involved. Of course, they have freedom of choice but you never know. You may have planted a seed in their minds that may eventually lead them to veganism.




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  4. Are there any purely academic articles supporting the use of algae oil supplements?

    It seems to me that most articles on algae oil discussed have financial conflicts of interest.

    NOTE: The study reported in this video by Arteburn et al states explicitly that:

    “This study was funded by Martek Biosciences Corporation.”

    To wit: Martek Biosciences Corporation are manufacturers of vegetarian algae oil supplements!!




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    1. Hello Sara,

      Regarding your question on Flax vs. Chia seeds, please view Dr. Greger’s video all on the subject.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/flaxseeds-vs-chia-seeds/

      Now when it comes to flax oil, or any oil for that matter, oils are essentially fat without nutrition and we should strive for a more whole plants approach since empty calories is never healthful.
      Please view this video as well as the comments and let me know if you have any more questions!
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/plant-based-omega-3-supplements-2/




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  5. I recently watched a video where a doctor objected to vegan diets, saying that when we take omega-3 supplements, we need EPA to DHA in a ratio of 3 to two. This isn’t possible if we use algae oil, which is mostly DHA and we can’t convert DHA to EPA so he said that there’s a hole in the vegan diet. Is this ratio correct? He also scoffed at the idea that we can convert enough ALA from plant foods to the long-chained omega-3s, especially if we eat foods containing omega-6 fatty acids (grains, most seeds and nuts along with most cooking oils which I’m sure few of the regular viewers here use). So, what should we do in this regard?




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  6. I’m a vegan do any supplements interfere with my natural thyroid med? I’m taking 1grain.. I take it right when I wake up in the morning. I’ve gained 25 pounds since my thyroid went into hypo. I’ve been on it for one month and still haven’t lost any weight! I’m very frustrated I think I’m starting to go into menopause. I’m 52 years old and have exercised my whole life! thank-you Zinette. P,S. Your articles are the best!.




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    1. Thyroid medication should always be taken at least 1 hour before eating food. Supplements such as iron, calcium, soy and fiber can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medications. If you take calcium or mineral supplements they should be taken at least 4 hours away from thyroid medication.

      Unfortunately, weight gain is all too common in people with hypothyroidism. Taking the correct dose of thyroid medication is important; however, not everyone loses weight just because they take the medication. Making sure that you are eating a whole food, plant-based diet, not just a vegan diet, is the best assurance of a healthy weight.

      There are compounds in the brassica family of vegetable such as broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts called goitrogens. Goitrogens may inhibit thyroid function if eaten in large amounts and in their raw state. However, these are very nutritious foods and you should include them in your diet. Steaming is said to “deactivate” the goitrogenic activity of these foods. Soy foods may also impede thyroid function; however, studies show that if ones diet is replete in iodine then soy poses no problem. You just don’t want to drink a glass of soy milk to swallow your thyroid pill as this will impede the absorption of the thyroid medication. Iodine supplementation can also be tricky, as too much iodine may increase or decrease thyroid function. The RDA for iodine is 150- mcg per day for adult men and women.

      Many folks with hypothyroidism have the autoimmune form called Hashimoto’s Disease. You may want your doctor to check you for thyroid antibodies to rule this in or out. Having Hashimoto’s may make it more challenging to regulate your thyroid hormone dose and make it more difficult to manage your weight.




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  7. My wife and I put 1tb spoon of Turmeric and Cinnamon plus 1/4 cup of flax seed in our oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Is that combination OK?




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  8. Why n-3 may increase the risk of CVD? Whats the mechanism of action? If its describes elsewhere please share a referencje. I’m a dietitian reading your website for not so long and have to say your is one of the best source of a valuable data. Thank You




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    1. Hi Pawel W, R.D. Welcome and thanks for commenting. Can you let me know what omega-3 and increase risk of CVD video or blog you are referring to? To me, this video only mentioned fish oil and how a cleaner sources of DHA/EPA from golden algae may be better. Omega-3’s are certainly important and we have loads of resources about them. Many people are told that fish oil is beneficial, but research suggests maybe we need to be careful before having everyone just take it. All of our references can be found by clicking the hyperlinks to the blogs, or under the “sources cited” tab under the video’s title. So glad you found us and I have another RD on here to chat with. Our site visitors could really benefit. Please feel free to help out and post more comments and questions around here. Always great to link research studies or valuable information.

      Best,
      Joseph




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      1. Hi Joseph, R.D., Thank you for answer, I havent expected such one. I was wondering about safety of n-3 consumption (in pure, not contaminatet supplements/food). Some studies shows no benefits of n-3 consumption, and some explanations has arised to explain this phenomena but they didnt focus on oxidation processes. I’d like to know how safe is it to give somebody a n-3 supplements if this person has high CVD risk, obesity or any other disease witch base is inflammation. n-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated and are very sensitive to reactive oxygen species which in results may increase the risk of CVD or other diseases. One friend of mine added n-3 supplement to his patient and his profile lipid worsened. Why and how? I wonder if i have a patient after myocardial infarction, high levels of inflammatory markers, when is it safe to give him PUFAs? Is there a relationship between safety of n-3 administration and lvl of CRP, homocysteine or any other marker?




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    2. Hi Pawel W, R.D. Welcome and thanks for commenting. Can you let me know what omega-3 and increase risk of CVD video or blog you are referring to? To me, this video only mentioned fish oil and how a cleaner sources of DHA/EPA from golden algae may be better. Omega-3’s are certainly important and we have loads of resources about them. Many people are told that fish oil is beneficial, but research suggests maybe we need to be careful before having everyone just take it. All of our references can be found by clicking the hyperlinks to the blogs, or under the “sources cited” tab under the video’s title. So glad you found us and I have another RD on here to chat with. Our site visitors could really benefit. Please feel free to help out and post more comments and questions around here. Always great to link research studies or valuable information.

      Best,
      Joseph




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  9. It’s a minefield! If you do this then that or that. As you read one lot of information it is already being superceded by something else. The average layperson is in trouble. I find trying to work out what is best and eat my way to good health…well…stressful.




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