Omega-3 fatty acids are a frequent subject in the news. And for good reason: their benefits are numerous. Researchers and medical professionals tout omega-3 fatty acids for promoting heart health, a healthy immune system, healthy pregnancies, and much more. While you can get omega-3s in your diet, many people prefer to get them through omega-3 fish oil supplements.
While the benefits of omega-3 fish oil are clear, the quality of omega-3 fish oil supplements can vary greatly. That is why some companies, like Theralogix, seek independent testing and certification from the International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS).
For this article, we chatted with Jennifer Andrews, M.Sc. from the IFOS program, and asked her why omega-3 fish oil quality matters, and how their fish oil certification program can help consumers make smart choices. Here’s what she had to say.
1. Why is fish oil quality a concern?
There are a few reasons why fish oil quality can be a concern. One is that in the past some companies have tried to use either a lower quality of fish oil in their product or a totally different fish oil than they listed on their product label. Not only is this incredibly misleading for the consumer, but it can also pose a safety risk.
Another issue is that because these products are oil-based, they are naturally more prone to oxidation or spoilage. This means fish oil can turn rancid if not manufactured, handled, or stored properly. Companies are responsible for making sure they are not selling rancid oil—which not only has “off” flavors and odors, it may no longer be effective. Unfortunately, this does happen with some less reputable companies.
Safety is another big reason to care about fish oil quality. Products made from larger marine animals can have high levels of contaminants such as heavy metals (mercury, lead), pesticides, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). These are harmful and can be particularly dangerous for babies and young children.
2. Tell me a little bit about what IFOS does.
IFOS is the only program that tests and certifies fish oil supplements, so shoppers can choose safe, effective, high-quality products. Those that meet the very strict testing criteria are granted the IFOS certification and are allowed to put the IFOS certification mark on their product labels. The IFOS certification mark helps consumers make an informed decision when shopping for fish oil supplements. It’s all about transparency.
The most important thing is that IFOS has no financial connection with the companies and brands that produce and sell fish oils. Nutrasource, the organization that runs the IFOS program is a research organization that provides services to the health products industry. This means that the IFOS certification is unbiased and completely third-party – something not all certifications can say!
3. What does IFOS test for?
The good news: IFOS tests fish oils for all of the concerns listed above – and more! Every company that gets their fish oils tested and certified submits samples of their fish oil from specific bottles (by batch/lot) of their product. IFOS tests all samples in an analytical laboratory for:
The amount of omega-3s (specifically, EPA and DHA) in the product compared to what the label states. This ensures you’re getting what you pay for and know exactly what you’re consuming.
The amount of contaminants and heavy metals – to ensure they do not exceed allowable levels.
- Total PCBs
- Dioxins and furans
- Dioxin-like PCBs
The freshness, or stability, of the product – to make sure it has not oxidized/turned rancid, which could affect its effectiveness
- Total oxidation
- Acid value
All the testing results above can be viewed for any IFOS-certified product by anyone with an internet connection (mobile or desktop) at any time. Companies that go the extra mile to achieve the IFOS certification are committed to transparency and the consumer’s right to know.
4. Tell me about your 5-star rating system. Can I look up my fish oil supplement on your site to see what rating it received?
Absolutely! The 5-star rating system (with 5 being the highest rating) is based on how many IFOS testing criteria a product has passed. A 5-star rating means the product:
- Has passed all IFOS testing categories
- Meets the label claim for active ingredients
- Has an acceptable oxidation level
- Doesn’t exceed excess PCB levels
- Does exceed excess dioxin levels
You can go to the Product Reports page, select a brand, choose a product, then see how many stars it has received (shown on the first page of its Product Report).
5. Tell me a little bit about the type of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil that are healthful. Do you verify the presence of omega-3 fatty acids by type so that we can be sure we are getting those that are useful for us in our fish oil supplement?
There’s a good reason fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements. The type of omega-3s it contains—EPA and DHA—offer the greatest health benefits not only for overall health but for prevention of many diseases. Taking EPA and DHA helps balance the fatty acid ratio in the diet to more healthful levels, which is helpful for those consuming a typical “Western” diet (containing too much omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s). EPA and DHA also help support heart, brain, and eye health.
IFOS tests and certifies fish oils to make sure the amount of EPA and DHA meet the label claim – and not just the total quantity of fatty acids or omega-3s. This makes sure companies are selling exactly what they say they are selling, and not a mixture of different, less effective active ingredients to save money.
All Theralogix fish oil containing products undergo testing and certification through IFOS. IFOS has awarded TherOmega, TheraNatal One, TheraNatal Complete, Lactation One, and Lactation Complete with its highest rating of 5 stars, which shows the exceptional quality and purity of these products.For more information, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @Theralogix! Don’t miss an article! Sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll let you know when our next article comes out.