New Omega-3 Study Improves Understanding of Fish Oil Rancidity


Fish oil manufacturers routinely formulate fish oil supplements with antioxidants like vitamin E and preservatives like rosemary to help protect the oils from oxidation and rancidity.

Retailers usually follow suit by placing fish oil supplements in refrigerated areas to protect the oils as well.

In 2019, the world market for finished products containing EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids reached $ 44 billion, with an estimated growth rate of 6.1% for 2020-21.

But academic studies were published in 2015 and 2016 that showed that rancid fish oils degrade the amount of EPA and DHA and could even harm the offspring – a particularly vulnerable population group for which many people take fish oil for benefits derived from the cognitive health to eyesight.

The omega-3 sector has been heavily criticized in the press and in certain scientific publications claiming that fish oil supplements are largely oxidized and not contain the claimed levels of EPA and DHA, that oxidized lipids of all kinds are harmful, and that oxidized fish oils increase those Infant mortality.

The leading fish oil trading group GOED, the global organization for EPA and DHA omega-3s, Was concerned that this negative depiction of omega-3 supplements could be linked to decreased omega-3 sales and decided to proactively demonstrate the overall good quality of omega-3 products and generate data to avoid negative press to refute more actively.

A new study The campaign organized by GOED continues its campaign against what it believes to be unfounded criticism of the industry.

This newly published study gives fish oil manufacturers a new understanding of what specific oxidation products are actually formed in highly oxidized fish oil.

In addition, the study gives the fish oil industry an opportunity to reiterate that the studies that targeted malignant fish oils were designed and carried out under completely unrealistic oxidation conditions.

The Original study from 2015 by Albert et al. tried to make a point by overoxidizing oils to a level that never found in commercially available fish oils. In fact, in the 2015 study, oxidation levels were 11 times higher than the industry’s voluntary maximum that many fish oil producers and traders adhere to.

“One of the aims of the study,” said Gerard Bannenberg, Ph.D., GOED’s Director of Technical Compliance and Outreach, “was to show that the oxidation condition that the Albert study conveyed is completely unrealistic. They destroyed the hoki liver oil, but then drew conclusions as if they were applicable to oils in dietary supplements. ”

The new study discovered new compounds produced by hyperoxidation of fish oils at levels never found in dietary supplements called isoprostanoids and oxysterols.

“Since the amounts of isoprostanoids and oxysterols that we found are missing,” said Bannenberg, “or at time zero, before the application of the overoxidation conditions or at the early times when the oxidation states are, are still present in much lower amounts the industry standards, we do not believe that such substances are important for commercial dietary supplements. ”

The isoprostanoids and oxysterols are formed during the massive overoxidation conditions used in specific studies attempting to attribute toxic effects to omega-3 supplements that were oxidized under unrealistic conditions and administered to experimental animals in hyperphysiological doses.

The study results do not indicate that fish oil products with more realistic degrees of oxidation are related to the chemical changes observed in overoxidized fish oil under study conditions not found in retail fish oil supplements.

Skirmishes for five years

The back and forth between interests that want to tear fish oil from its pedestal and fish oil interests became one Study series in the past five years.

The 2015 study by Albert et al claimed that fish oil supplements in New Zealand are highly oxidized and do not meet the prescribed omega-3 fatty acid content.

A Replication study Commissioned by GOED in 2017 showed that using GOED-recommended methods performed by multiple laboratories for each sample, the opposite was the case – most of the products were not oxidized and met the labeling statement.

GOED also produced a published letter to point out the flawed experimental nature and conclusions of this 2015 study.

In 2017 GOOD a Good practice report for oxidation control – a valuable addition to industry knowledge.

In addition to considering factors that can determine oxidation – from exposure to air to temperature, light, and many others – the report also mentions that manufacturers can reduce the risk of oxidation by using smaller bottle packages of 30 or 60 capsules per bottle that in a shorter time than 200 or 300 capsules per packaging unit.

A Follow-up study 2018 evaluated a multi-year database of nearly 2,000 batches of EPA / DHA ingredient oils and supplements. It was found that the vast majority have a high oxidative quality.

GOED is the global EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acid organization representing more than 170 companies across the supply chain, from seafood companies to refineries, dietary supplement manufacturers, food and beverage marketers and pharmaceutical companies.


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