Truth or Consequences for Fish Oil?
Dr. Dave Woynarowski MD is a nationally renowned fish oil expert who has been studying and using fish oil himself and in his practice for over a decade.
He commented on the current status of fish oil with regards to purity and Proposition 65 in response to several questions that have come up as a result of the Prop 65 lawsuit filed by a private consumer environmental group.
The lawsuit filed by a private group in California alleges that several major suppliers and manufacturers of fish oil failed to label their products as containing levels of toxins known as PCB's, which were present in levels deemed excessive in California as defined by the Proposition 65 Clean Water and Hazardous Materials Act. Named in the suit were Solgar, Twin Labs, GNC NOW and several other well known supplement companies.
Woynarowski was asked;
"What do you think of the Proposition 65 lawsuit and how will it affect the industry and the research into fish oil's benefits"
Dr. Dave responded;
"It's unfortunate but some of the best known manufacturers got dinged. In all cases I think each of them met the FDA standards but the Proposition 65 standards are 4 times lower and that makes more work for the company to meet those standards."
"Why would there be two standards concerning PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls)Well anyone can make up a standard and try to use it to force purity but in the case of PCB's the dose makes the poison. The liver can handle low levels of these chemicals derived from plastics but at higher levels they are presumed (no direct link has yet been found) carcinogenic. Once you start talking about cancer it's easy to see why people get upset. While I am all for the absolute purest products, this is not like death or pregnancy where you have no leeway. It is virtually impossible to remove all PCB's from any product but we can do it well below the Proposition 65 standards if we want."
Why do you think the 10 companies named in the suit were singled out (these include Solgar, GNC, and Twin labs)?
"Probably because they are the biggest brands, most well known and best selling, but also because they use the same source. If you took the oil and matched it to the manufacture date I would be surprised if it didn't all test out the same, meaning that they are selling the same product. I do not know the source but I do know that we have been approached by Chinese companies claiming perfect purity. The track record of these sources is less than perfect and maybe these companies succumbed to a lower price point and higher profit margin but who knows!"
What is Pharmaceutical Grade Fish Oil?
The doctor's reply: "Well it's the only type I will use for myself, my patients and my fish oil customers but it depends on who you talk to. Critics of fish oil slammed the term as pure marketing hype. Ironically, if the oil is treated to the processing needed to make it as pure as possible, it removes most of the PCB's, meets all FDA standards, has no detectable levels of lead or mercury and is consistently close to what is claimed on the label much like a drug. In short, if the FDA makes fish oil a drug, which is now much closer to reality as it is with all supplements, a real Pharmaceutical Grade fish oil would pass muster."
What do you think of alternative sources of EPA and DHA like krill?
Woynarowski states, "I still use only fish oil. There are over 10,000 independent (not manufacturer sponsored) studies on fish oil dating back decades and more come out every day practically. Krill lost credibility with me when some of the manufactures claimed it was "better than fish oil." They were told to stop those ads, which they soon did because that is a very broad sweeping statement with no proof. Krill has only been studied by manufacturer studies to my knowledge. It is part of a sensitive ecosystem just like fish. And just like fish it is subject to extensive farming and pollutants as well, in this case OPC's (organochlorine pesticides). I haven't seen anyone testing krill. Just saying it's clean doesn't cut it with me. I do think the perfect solution to keeping our fish stocks well fed with Omega 3's in their food chain is to use the krill added to standard fish meal to feed the farmed fish. That would solve a lot of sustainability issues but krill is rather expensive for the amounts of Omega 3 you get. And fish can convert other fatty acids to Omega 3 in a fashion human beings can't so the sustainability issues can be solved with a little work and conscientious behavior. By the way, no human population ever lived on krill so there will never be any population based studies!"
Finally, he added;
"For the first time in history a supplement has been so robust and scientifically grounded that even traditional medical doctors are using it extensively. I think the future is very bright for fish oil and it remains the gold standard of Omega 3's for scientific studies and human supplementation for the foreseeable future."
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