Understanding Fish Oil Oxidation – Is It a Serious Concern? 

Understanding Fish Oil Oxidation

Fish oil oxidation occurs when the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil are exposed to heat, oxygen, or light.  This can happen in any food or supplement that contains these healthy fatty acids, but fish oil is often singled out because it’s known to have that intense fishy smell and taste. What you may not realize is that even flaxseed and other vegetarian foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can develop that fishy smell and taste due to oxidation.  



Manufacturers work hard to prevent oxidation because they want consumers to find their fish oil supplements more appealing, but that doesn’t erase the fact that oxidation occurs in many fish oil supplements on the market today. Some researchers have found that as many as 40% of fish oil supplements sold in the United States today may have a much higher rate of oxidation than is recommended by industry standards.

This means that you’re more than likely going to purchase oxidized fish oil at some point if you take this supplement on a daily basis. The question is whether this may impact your health negatively in the future.

Research & Regulations

There are currently no laws regulating oxidation in fish oil supplements, so all testing conducted to this point is completely voluntary. Some of the leading manufacturers of fish oil supplements submit to this testing so that they can market their low or nonexistent oxidation levels. This makes it easier for consumers like you to find supplements that are less likely to contain oxidized fish oil, but it doesn’t guarantee that you will never take a fish oil capsule that has at least a low level of oxidation.

Some researchers have found that the impact of consuming oxidized fish oil is unfounded or unknown while others have found no negative impact of oxidation on human health. For instance, one study found that those consuming fish oil with oxidation suffered no heightened inflammation or other health concerns after about seven months of use. This doesn’t prove that there’s nothing to worry about with long-term use, but it does give some hope that fish oil oxidation isn’t as big a deal as some would like to believe.

Should You Worry About Fish Oil Oxidation?

Could fish oil oxidation harm you in some way? Medical professionals simply don’t have a conclusive answer to this question as of today. Most research into the issue ends with a recommendation for further study. While you’re waiting for that research to be conducted and the results released, you can use the limited research that is available to hold out hope that at least short-term use of fish oil supplements is safe.

Keep in mind that manufacturers work hard to remove oxidized fats from their products before releasing them to consumers. You can also do your research to find companies that release their oxidation ratings after going through voluntary testing. This will dramatically lower your risk of consuming oils that have oxidized fats.

If you’re thinking about using krill oil, flaxseed, or other natural products high in omega-3 fatty acids as an alternative to fish oil, keep in mind that these products can also experience oxidation. It may be better to seek out a fish oil supplement that has tested low or negative for oxidation.

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