Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fish Oil: Great for You! Unless It's Not.

Every morning, I pop a big ass fish oil capsule in my mouth. Fish oil offers tons of health benefits: It's a great source of two long-chain essential fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-- Omega-3 fatty acids that help lower triglycerides and boosts cardiovascular and cognitive health. EPA and DHA balance out Omega-6 fatty acids, keeping inflammation in check.

But boy, does fish oil make my burps taste foul. (Usually, my burps taste awesome!)

And now, according to a recently-filed lawsuit by the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation, a bunch of over-the-counter fish oil supplements were found to contain toxic levels of polyclorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which may pose cancer risks and cause reproductive problems.

The PCB content varies widely: According to the Foundation, "[t]he lowest level, found in Solgar's Norwegian Cod Liver Oil, was 70 times below the highest, found in Now Foods Salmon Oil."

Toxicity can vary widely in fish oil, depending on what kind of fish is used and the contamination in its habitat waters, scientists say. Older, bigger fish tend to build up more PCBs in their fatty tissues than smaller fish, but habitat is still key. Deciphering which products are safest is not easy for consumers: Not all manufacturers state what kind of fish their oil is derived from, and few state which waters the fish come from.