Fish Oil/Snake Oil!

Medically based advice has for years recommended taking omega 3 supplements. The most popular and generally least expensive way to boost your omega 3 levels is by taking fish oil. In most cases, the fish oil is sourced from the cold oceans around South America and is a by-product of fish meal production.
A number of issues in relation to the quality of commercial fish oil have been slowly coming to light and now some of the the latest research was recently referenced in the ABC Health Report (February 27, 2017).

In brief, results from testing show that:

  1. a high proportion of commercially produced fish oil is rancid and, in fact, is likely to be rancid even before it has been processed into the cute little golden capsules;
  2. much of the oil currently sold as fish oil capsules contains impurities some of which are toxic;
  3. a high percentage of fish oil products tested had minimal or even no EPA or DHA omega 3.

This is not to say that there are no products you can trust but given that published test results do not list manufacturers, it makes it difficult to know which are good products and which should be avoided.

I’ve been taking fish oil based Omega 3 capsules for years and have been becoming more and more concerned about what is really in the supplement. I’m surprised I ain’t long dead from taking toxic fish oil!!
Surly there is a crying need for definitive research, possible regulation and maybe even banning the selling of some of the worst omega 3 snake oil.

Given the number of people that take fish oil supplements, I think that there is a serious consumer health issue here.


I was listening to the ABC radio followup report on this last weekend with one of the academics that originally highlighted the benefits of Omega-3 and has been researching fish oils for the past few decades. While he agrees with the report, he disagrees with the way the conclusions were presented and thinks that they were doing too much scare-mongering with it. Here’s the transcripts:

My rough memory of the report (I haven’t relistened to it, so may be wrong)

  • Rancid (oxidised) is not a problem.
  • Impurities are there directly from the fish. The saturated and unsaturated fats are required to be there for efficacy. If it wasn’t, then the oils would be less effective. He quoted some numbers that I don’t remember, but I recall something about only 30% is actual omega 3 oils, and if it was any higher, it wouldn’t work as well (ie, it needed the combo with the other fats to actually work)

The thing that struck me the most is that he talked about all the initial research that he did in the very beginning all the fish oil research they did was from second hand by-products out of another industry (pet foods IIRC). All the benefits were found with oils that had been sitting around even for months and several lots of processing. As such, he didn’t agree that the issues highlighted in the report were actually a concern because this was normal and what the original findings were based on (apart from point 3 of having no Omega 3 at all).


‘Trust Me, I’m a Doctor’ (season 6, ep3, still available online) recently reviewed omega 3 fish oil supplements vs eating fish, and found that all 10 brands had at least as much omega 3 as claimed, but some had significantly more, and that some were indeed rancid. From memory, they didn’t find any significant differences between their test group taking supplements vs those having equivalent amounts through eating fish.

I think I’ll just stick to eating my home-grown rainbow trout 3 times per week :slight_smile:

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Here are some CHOICE articles on the subject to add to the mix, this one on false omega 3 claims and a more recent article by @rclemons on the facts on fish.

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I was advised to take fish oil to supplement my omega 3, which I did do for a while then one day at the chemist they advised to try the krill oil as it had a much higher concentration of omega 3 and some other benefits (which I can’t remember). This all sounded fine until I started to feel very off colour and upset stomach, then it finally dawned on me that krill is a crustacean and I’m allergic to shellfish! I stopped as soon as I realised, there were no warnings on the bottle and the pharmacist didn’t mention it. In hindsight I know I was stupid for taking it and not putting two and two together but it has made me aware of these types of dietary supplements and to check what’s in them.


I have taken krill oil for a while, and I can attest that it has really alleviated my arthritis on my big toe.

I use a very reputable brand. Mercola seems to have quite an honesty about its products. I have been using some of his for quite a few years and am very happy with that. reliable and he stands by them. His krill comes for sustainable fishing and it is thoroughly tested.

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Krill is a major source of food for Whales and many other creatures. Its getting close to being overfished so if it collapses a huge hole in the food chain will occur and making supplement eaters bigger killers of whales than Japan or Norway. I’m not sure if its true but can’t you get Omega 3 from Natural Chicken?

There are many sources of Omega 3, other than from seafoods. The Heart Foundation has prepared a list of common foods which have omega 3. It can be found here. It is worth noting that omega 3 from sea life is called either EPA DHA and from plants it is ALA.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a type of Omega 3 fat found in plant foods which cannot be manufactured by the human body. Once consumed, ALAs can be converted into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPAs and DHAs are also typically found in seafood (source and Wiki).

As the body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, one has to ask why we are exploiting our oceans for EPA and DHA Omega 3 when there are plant based, equally high concentration of omega 3 which can be produced sustainably (and possibly cheaper).

Note: it is a pdf and one must have a pdf reader installed to read the document.

I also have the same concerns about use of krill as a harvested form of omega 3. Krill is towards the bottom of the sea food chain and if its population is significantly affected, it will impact on all other species that live on our oceans.


An article regarding the benefits of consuming Omega 3.

Has Choice done any tests of Hemp Seed Oil and how does it compare to Fish Oil.

As I believe Hemp Seed Oil is considered the most balanced oil in all of nature. full of protein, packed with healthy fats and perfectly balanced with the correct ratio of the essential fatty acids Omega 6 to Omega 3 (3:1 Ratio), and also high in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, sodium, sulfur and zinc and is a rich source of dietary fibre.

Sounds too good to be true?

Is there a recognised source for the analysis. A suggestion the oil is a rich source of fibre is a contradiction with typical analysis of other healthy oils such as cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (EVO), sunflower oil and rapeseed oil all typically quoted as 0% dietary fibre products.

Raw hemp seed appears to have a low fibre content 4gm per 100gm of hulled hemp seed.

Is the fibre also dietary fibre?
With National Heart Foundation recommending 25-30gms of dietary fibre per day that is a lot of hemp seed equivalent. Bran, beans, berries, and whole grains are the recognised go to for dietary fibre.

This is not to say hemp seed oil is a bad product.

Typical choice product reviews look at testing the quality or consistency of a product against the suppliers ingredients and safety (quality vs price), across a range of suppliers.
Nutritional value is typically reported as raw values. There is sometimes comment on whether the value meets nationally recommended dietary needs.

Every food product serves a wide range of needs and choices. We don’t all make the same ones, which is perhaps why keeping it simple might appeal to the wider Choice membership.

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Maybe if one eats the seeds, but the oil is a different beast…

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That is why I asked if Choice has done any tests, because I have read that on various companies websites, maybe they add extra Fibre etc.

Choice has a recent review that includes hemp as a food source.

The best source of information for what is in a particular food product is the nutrition panel provided on the product. Hemp seed is actually a nut with the outer husk making up most of the fibre content, 4-5% fibre. This is stated in the Choice review. Oils produced for cooking or dressing are typically produced clear (filtered) for obvious reasons.

In reading manufacturer or suppliers marketing materials as you suggest some claims may not add up. Puffery is common with products with added health claims. It may assist all to understand any concerns or needs if there are individual product examples. EG brand, supplier, website.

There is also a tool in the header bar of the ‘Reply’ box that allows pictures, screen shots etc to be pasted into a reply on the community. It’s a useful way to share commentary.

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