It is estimated that 1 in 4 Australians take fish oil supplements daily because of suggested benefits in heart disease risk, diabetes, mental health, arthritis and cognitive improvement. Sales of supplements from 2013 were estimated as growing from $200 million annually.

The fish oil capsules we buy may not contain the active ingredient levels stated on the label and the oil in the supplements in many cases is oxidized and almost rancid, causing more harm than good. ( oxidized fish oil may promote the formation of fatty deposits in vessels , the opposite of what we are expecting).

A study from the University of Newcastle and University of Auckland examined the contents of 32 fish oil supplements on the market in New Zealand. ( half of these products are made in Australia). The individual capsules contained an average of 68% of the claimed content , two brands contained a third of the content. Only three products contained quantities of omega 3 fatty acids equal or higher than that stated on the label. The study did not identify which brands were tested.

Most fish oil used in supplements is sourced from deep sea fish off the west coast of  South America and encapsulated and packaged in Australia or New Zealand .
The " best before date" in packaging bears no relationship to the levels of oxidation in the individual capsules. For the study all the products were at least 9 months from the labelled " best before" date.
There was no relationship between price, exclusivity or country of origin in predicting results. 

New Zealand currently has no binding manufacturing standards for these products. In Australia, the Therapeutic Guide Australia ( TGA) regulates that any product sold in Australia has 90% of the stated  content. The TGA announced that it is reviewing the research to see what actions are needed.

For consumers in the meantime , perhaps eating fish more regularly will be a more reliable method of increasing omega 3 fatty acids for health. The omega 3 fatty acids are also contained in chia seeds, flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil. 

Scientific Reports

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