Omega-3: Why Your Fish Oil Supplements May Not Be Fresh

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Editor’s note: A link to an earlier story in this article has been changed to reflect information about a story that CBC has withdrawn. Please read the full story.

.Fish oil supplements on Canadian shelves can oxidize and go rancid. Some experts say they shouldn’t be consumed. However, it is not always easy for consumers to see which products have deteriorated.

Fish oil supplements have become a booming $ 200 million a year market in Canada as many consumers seek to increase their omega-3 fat intake to improve their cardiovascular and brain health.

Oils can decompose

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in a wide variety of fatty fish, such as salmon.

Canadians spend $ 200 million annually on fish oil supplements to increase their intake of omega-3 fats to improve their cardiovascular and brain health. (CBC)

“Fish oil is a polyunsaturated fatty acid; it has multiple double bonds, so it’s very vulnerable to oxygen, light, and other conditions,” says Preston Mason, a biochemist at Harvard Medical School.

“Fish oil that has oxidized beyond the maximum limits is most likely of no health benefit. In fact, such oxidized lipids contribute to cardiovascular disease and should be avoided,” says Mason.

Some experts say that oxidized oils are harder for the body to process and could be especially difficult for people with a history of heart problems. Little research has been done on oxidized fish oil, however.

Eat fish a better option: expert

While the evidence shows that eating fish is linked to some health benefits, experts disagree on the benefits of taking a fish oil supplement.

“Buy this fish at the fish market, you have your own quality metric,” says Dr. David Agus, a bestselling author and professor of medicine. (CBC)

Dr. David Agus, bestselling author of The End of Illness and professor of medicine at the University of Southern California, says this is another reason to get nutrients from food.

“Quite simply, when you expose fish oil to air and light, it deteriorates and becomes rancid,” he says. “As you buy this fish at the fish market, you have your own quality metric: you poke it, you smell it and you ask when it came in and you know if it is good or not.”

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