by: Cyndi O’Meara
For some time now fish oil has been considered a healthy way to supplement your diet and a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Many of us remember having a spoonful of fish oil as a child before the capsule version came along.
In recent years however, some mass produced fish oils have become more and more vague in their certification and claims to be natural. From examining the packaging, very few supplements are able to tell you what fish the oil was sourced from, if it was farmed or from the ocean, and whether the levels of mercury included are safe.
There are also concerns about what else is being added to fish oil. Some variations contain artificial flavouring to mask the fishy taste – which are synthetically produced and contain over 40 chemicals, many of which are linked to health problems.
When buying Omega 3 oil supplements, I always consider the following:
1. Don’t buy blindly. Always have a good read of the packaging – don’t buy into vague claims and make sure the ingredients, refining process and source are spelt out in black and white.
2. Watch out for flavourings. Added flavours are created in laboratories and have been linked to many health problems in the past 15 years.
3. Avoid Gel Capsules. Not all gel caps are created equal but there are some very common variations on the market which may contain hypermellose phthalate and propylene glycol (linked to kidney and liver problems and banned in the US in pill preparations). Most supplements won’t list the gel cap ingredients on the box – this is a red flag! Even if the fish oil is great, the carrier might be trouble.
4. Quality over Quantity. Fish oil is expensive to produce properly. When you cut costs and go for a cheaper capsule, chances are the standards have slipped and it may be mixed with other oils – possible genetically modified to keep costs down.
5. Consider the Environment. Fish oil production takes its toll on the sea. It takes 5kg of fish to produce 1kg of fish oil and there is a high rate of wastage. With our environment as it is today and the oceans depleted of its natural fish source, think again before buying.
With all things considered, a daily dose of essential fatty acids is certainly not a bad thing but with the health, ethical and environmental costs associated with fish oil it seems foolish not to consider other options. After much research and consideration, I sourced a Peruvian plant based oil, called Inca Inchi for retail through Changing Habits. Containing 45% Omega 3 and 39% Omega 6, the oil provides most of the human body’s needs for essential fats.
The main thing to remember is to be careful to not blindly supplement your diet. Ensure whatever you take has nutritional value, is made from real ingredients and won’t harm your ethical conscience.
About the author
Cyndi is a nutritionist and founder of Changing Habits – a health and nutrition education company that have gone from strength to strength since Cyndi wrote her bestselling book ‘Changing Habits, Changing Lives’ in 1997. Cyndi now writes diet protocols, cook books, does national tours, has a line of products and is prolific in the media as an expert on all things health.