November 26, 2001
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.--ConsumerLab.com announced results of its product review of omega-3 fatty acids--eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)--from fish/marine oils. Through retail, online, direct sales and multi-level marketing sources, ConsumerLab.com (www.consumerlab.com) purchased 20 dietary supplements, 19 of which were EPA/DHA combination products and one containing only DHA made from algal oil, and tested them for their levels of EPA and DHA as claimed on the label, as well as for mercury contamination and evidence of decomposition.
Of the 20 products tested, six failed due to inadequate amounts of DHA, which ranged from 50 percent to 80 percent of what was stated on the label. Two of the products were also low in EPA, containing 33 percent and 82 percent of their claimed amounts, respectively. In addition, two of the products that failed had statements on their labels that their "potency" had been either "tested" or "verified." None of the 20 products showed evidence of decomposition nor did any contain detectable levels of mercury (less than 1.5 ppb).
"The good news is that these fish oil supplements did not appear to pose a risk of mercury poisoning--a risk that can be very real when routinely consuming certain fish, such as swordfish and shark," said Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of ConsumerLab.com. "The bad news is that a number of products had significantly less DHA and/or EPA than claimed. This could certainly reduce the effectiveness of the products. It raises the issue of whether people who are taking omega-3 supplements to prevent or treat heart disease, for example, are getting an effective does of DHA and EPA from their supplements."
ConsumerLab.com's testing methods included analyzing all products for their EPA and DHA components by gas chromatography utilizing a modified AOAC (Association of Official Analytical Chemists, International) Official Method 991.39. Products failing initial assay were retested utilizing modified AOCS (American Oil Chemists Society) methods for fatty acid determination. To determine peroxide values, products were analyzed using AOCS Methods CD 8-53 and 12-57. A Cold Vapor Atomic Absorption method was used to determine mercury levels.
Products that earned a passing score met three criteria: 1) meet 100 percent of label claims for EPA and DHA, not to exceed 150 percent of claimed amount; 2) have a peroxide value of no more than 10 meq/kg; and 3) have a total mercury content of less than 100 ppb.
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