Following fish oil's purity and sustainability

School of fish in sea swimming underwater  with sunlight shining through center

Many consumers express concerns regarding contamination and the sustainability of global fisheries, leading them to limit their consumption of these beneficial supplements. 

Fortunately, advancements in modern fishery and processing methods have revolutionized the industry. First, let's start with why fish oil is so important:

Benefits of fish oil & dose

The health benefits available from the consumption of cold-water fish and fish oil are many. 

They include: (1-3)

  • Promoting healthy cardiovascular, brain/cognitive & mental health 
  • Supporting metabolic health and helping maintain healthy LDL & HDL cholesterol & triglyceride levels
  • Suppressing chronic inflammation to encourage a healthy inflammatory response, which is key for overall joint wellness
  • Providing the body with critical omega-3 fatty acids
  • Increasing longevity and reducing all-cause mortality, concluded by two study reports

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Let's face it, who wants to be misled into using a product that lacks the potency necessary to meet their health needs? To derive significant results from fish oil, a relatively high daily dose is needed. 

The optimal supplemental intake of omega-3s should be around 2,400 mg of EPA/DHA per day. However, the average omega-3 supplement offers just 200 mg per day of active EPA and DHA, less than one-tenth of the optimum dose. (4) 

Pure & sustainable fish oil

Safeguarding against fish oil pollutants and ensuring the highest purity

Concerns surrounding contamination have long troubled those who prioritize their health. The issue particularly affects wild-living fish that produce oil, as they are exposed to environmental pollutants that can accumulate in their livers, which are the main source of oil. 

Contaminants, such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and organochlorine pesticides, possess the potential to negatively impact human well-being. (5,6) To address this, a cutting-edge approach to fish oil harvesting has emerged. 

Sourcing fish exclusively from certified sustainable fisheries and utilizing state-of-the-art techniques, highly potent fish oils with standardized concentrations and ratios of EPA and DHA are now readily available.

These innovative practices not only minimize the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals but also maximize the freshness of the oils. As a result, individuals can confidently take higher doses of fish oil, even while ingesting fewer and smaller softgels, knowing that they are making a choice that aligns with their health and environmental values.

The best way of avoiding this worrying concern of pollutants, is to opt for fish oils that have obtained IFOS-certification. This is a mark of quality and safety. It is crucial to seek out fish oil products that proudly bear the prestigious five-star rating bestowed by IFOS. 

Without undergoing rigorous testing by IFOS, the true nature of the fish oil supplement remains unknown. Prioritizing IFOS-certified options ensures transparency and provides peace of mind, allowing you to make informed decisions about the fish oil you choose to incorporate into your routine. 

The fish oil from Life Extension®

Life Extension's fish oil is used from fish sourced in a IFOS™-certified and sustainably-sourced anchovy, which naturally contain lower levels of contaminants. 

This, together with the implemented meticulous production methods used in the anchovy comprehensively eliminates any worries related to contamination and rancidity.

Moreover, the fishery management practices and sustainability encompasses not only the quantity of fish caught but also the impact on non-target species. 

The rundown of the IFOS rating

The International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) is an international certification program concerned with the quality of omega 3 products, as it relates to the international standards for purity and concentration established by the World Health Organization and the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

It employs a star rating system based on rigorous criteria. (7)

A fish oil is given '5 Stars' if it meets criteria in 5 specific areas when:

  • Product has passed all IFOS testing categories
  • Product meets the label claim for active ingredient concentration
  • Product has an oxidation level less than 75% of CRN standard
  • Product PCB levels are less than 50% of CRN standard
  • Product dioxin levels are less than 50% of WHO standard

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The categories for IFOS testing:

1) The first star is earned by successfully meeting the stringent testing standards established by influential organizations such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition, Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3, and the World Health Organization. Achieving this milestone is no small feat, indicating a commitment to quality. 

2) The second star is awarded to fish oil formulas that surpass the 60% threshold for omega-3 concentrations. This star distinguishes products that contain higher levels of the beneficial components of fish oil, namely the omega-3 fatty acids. It serves as a helpful tool for identifying premium options, as generic fish oil products may not meet this criterion. 

3) Three additional stars are granted for categories focused on evaluating three toxic markers. After all, the purpose of consuming fish oils is to reap their numerous health benefits, not to introduce more toxins into our bodies. One marker assessed by IFOS is the overall oxidation of the fish oil. 

Fish oil, being rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, is highly susceptible to oxidation compared to oils like olive or coconut. The presence of double bonds in fish oil, while contributing to its biological effectiveness, creates vulnerability to oxidation. 

IFOS conducts tests to measure total oxidation as well as specific levels of peroxide and anisidine, serving as individual markers of oxidation. The increase in anisidine levels corresponds to the degree of oxidation and its accompanying rancid smell. (7)

Another crucial but lesser-known test is the total acid value of the oil. When free fatty acids separate from their parent molecules (triglycerides or phospholipids), the total acid value of the oil rises. This increase often indicates the presence of microbes, as they facilitate the cleavage of free fatty acids. 

Detecting an elevated total acid level is undesirable when it comes to fish oil, as it suggests an excess of microorganisms. By adhering to the IFOS certification, consumers can confidently select fish oil products that meet stringent quality standards, ensuring purity, potency, and protection against potential toxins. 

4) Another common concern amongst consumers is whether or not their fish oil contains persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Fortunately, IFOS tests fish oils for common POPs including total PCBs, dioxins and furans, and dioxin-like PCBs to ensure that levels fall below strict limits. Ensuring fish oil is free of these toxins is critical when evaluating fish oil quality and safety

5) The final category for IFOS testing is heavy metal testing. It checks levels of mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium. It must pass the stringent standards for these toxic metals as described by the Council for Responsible Nutrition as well as the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s. 

Only when a product can pass ALL of the categories mentioned previously, will it achieve a Five-Star rating. Thus, consumers would be wise to make sure the fish oil they are taking is one that has a lot-specific COA and has also been awarded a Five-Star rating by IFOS. 

This is a powerful combination of quality testing to help assure the potency and purity of a fish oil product. (7)

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  1. https://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2022/3/omega-3-levels-healthy-years
  2. https://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2023/4/life-expectancy-fish-oil
  3. Li Z-H, Zhong W-F, Liu S, et al. Associations of habitual fish oil supplementation with cardiovascular outcomes and all cause mortality: evidence from a large population based cohort study. BMJ. 2020;368:m456.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid. Drugs and Supplements [2013; http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/dosing/hrb-20059372. Accessed 5 August, 2015.
  5. Hong MY, Lumibao J, Mistry P, Saleh R, Hoh E. Fish Oil Contaminated with Persistent Organic Pollutants Reduces Antioxidant Capacity and Induces Oxidative Stress without Affecting Its Capacity to Lower Lipid Concentrations and Systemic Inflammation in Rats. J Nutr. 2015 May;145(5):939-44. 
  6. Wenstrom KD. The FDA’s new advice on fish: it’s complicated. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Nov;211(5):475-78 e1. 
  7. Available at: https://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2015/10/finding-a-high-quality-fish-oil. Accessed June 14, 2023