In terms of total tonnage, more than 50% of all the fish oil in the world, is produced by only one company. This company is in total compliance with world, federal, and local fishing regulations and yet most of the fish oil they produce is suitable only as filler in animal feed. This company while it operates as a good corporate citizen is not adding anything to the health of the people who depend upon their supplements. However, with the poor quality of fish oil that is available, it is we the consumers, who are more to blame for the poor quality and high level of contamination in what should be the miracle food of the century.
PCBs, mercury, and dioxins are the main contaminants found in the fish that routinely serve as the base for omega-3 fatty acid supplements. The majority of governments in the world long ago banned the use of these chemicals or have heavily regulated their use. The Environmental Protection Agency and many states have legislated regulations concerning the production of fish oil and fish oil products. The state of California when it passed Proposition 65 developed the most stringent regulations concerning the level of toxins allowable in nutritional supplements. The Proposition 65 guidelines have been accepted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) for use in grading the different types of fish oil products.
The different toxins found in fish harvested from contaminated waters and from products made from those fish are in a class known as carcinogens or neurotoxins. The two cultures with the highest level of fish consumption are the native Eskimo and mainland Japanese. The World Health Organization recently released a report stating that both of these populations are quickly approaching the upper limit of safety where these toxins are concerned. When a problem such as this presents itself researchers search for a solution. The ability to remove the two essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA, from the toxic sludge that was once a healthy source of food was the problem. The development of a new manufacturing process brought us what we now know as ultra refined essential fatty acid concentrates.
Most average health-food store omega-3 supplements have been processed and refined just enough to remove the heavy metal toxins. The dioxins and PCBs require a much greater level of refinement to remove them from the crude oil. This means that the average person taking an over-the-counter fish oil for their health may actually be doing themselves more harm than good. The next level of refinement provides distillation in order to remove additional smells, cholesterol, and a small portion of the remaining toxins. The next step is to separate the two essential fatty acids into ethyl esters and concentrate them, this also concentrates the toxins. In this second level refinement the concentration of EPA and DHA remains very low and requires large doses of the supplement in order to receive the benefit. This means that the consumer will be receiving large amounts of concentrated toxin as well.
The introduction of molecular distillation provided a solution to this problem. This process removes the essential fatty acids of all the toxic contaminants. This level of refinement is called ultra refined by the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS). Refinement of fish oils to this level makes them safer for consumption and allows consumers to receive the full benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. There are many names by which omega-3 fish oil supplements are known, however the most important thing about a supplement is not who sells it, or what it is named, but the potency of the supplement and the purity of the fish oil contained within.