Can retailers chill out about fish oil rancidity now?

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Retailers who stock fish oil supplements take care to protect the healthy omega-3s from oxidation, rancidity and customer complaints about fishy burps.

Nordic Naturals and Life Extension routinely use vitamin E as an antioxidant and rosemary extract as a preservative in their fish oil supplements. Wiley’s Finest uses mixed tocopherols (vitamin E). New chapter contains tocopherols. Pure formulas contain tocopherols. AlgaeCal uses an antioxidant blend of natural mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract, ascorbyl palmitate (a fat-soluble vitamin C) and green tea extract.

“Manufacturers typically add antioxidants to refined oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids,” said Gerard Bannenberg, Ph.D., director of technical compliance and public relations at GOED, the global organization for EPA and DHA omega-3s Fatty acids give them increased oxidation stability. ”

In 2019, the global EPA and EHA omega-3 fatty acid finished product market was $ 44 billion, according to GOED, with an estimated growth rate of 6.1% for 2020-21.

However, academic studies were published in 2015 and 2016 showing that rancid fish oils can decrease levels of EPA and DHA and even harm offspring – a particularly vulnerable population for which many people take fish oil for benefits ranging from cognitive health to visual benefits .

The omega-3 sector received significant criticism in the press and in certain scientific publications, claiming that fish oil supplements were largely oxidized and did not contain the claimed EPA and DHA levels, that oxidized lipids of all kinds were harmful to health, and that oxidized fish oils increased those Infant mortality.

The leading trading group for fish oil, GOED, the global organization for EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, Was concerned that this negative depiction of omega-3 supplements could be linked to a decline in omega-3 sales and decided to proactively demonstrate and generate data to support the overall good quality of omega-3 products to refute negative press more actively.

New study pushes back

A new study organized by GOED is continuing its campaign to counter what it believes to be unfounded criticism of the sector.

This newly published study gives fish oil manufacturers a new understanding of what specific oxidation products are actually formed in highly oxidized fish oil.

In addition, the study provides the fish oil industry with an opportunity to re-establish that the studies aimed at defaming fish oils were designed and carried out under completely unrealistic oxidation conditions.

The original study by Albert et al. From 2015 tried to make a point by overoxidizing oils in such quantities Never be contained in commercially available fish oils. In fact, in the 2015 study, oxidation levels were 11 times higher than the industry voluntary maximum that many fish oil producers and traders adhere to.

“One goal of the study,” said Gerard Bannenberg, Ph.D., director of technical compliance and public relations at GOED, “was to show that the oxidative condition that the Albert study conveyed is completely unrealistic.” They destroyed the hoki liver oil but then drew conclusions as if these were applicable to oils in supplements. ”

The new study discovered new compounds made by hyperoxidation of fish oils on a scale never found in dietary supplements, isoprostanoids and oxysterols.

“Because the isoprostanoid and oxysterol levels we found are missing,” Bannenberg said, “or are present in much lower amounts at time zero, before the application of the overoxidation conditions, or at the early times when oxidation levels are present.” We do not believe that such substances are important for commercial food supplements. ”

The isoprostanoids and oxysterols are formed during the massive overoxidation conditions used in specific studies attempting to attribute toxic effects to omega-3 supplements that have been oxidized under unrealistic conditions and given to experimental animals in hyperphysiological doses.

The study results do not indicate that fish oil products with more realistic oxidation levels are associated with the chemical changes in over-oxidized fish oil characterized under study conditions not found in retail fish oil additives.

Skirmishes for five years

The back and forth between interests trying to knock fish oil off its pedestal and fish oil interests has been addressed in a number of studies over the past five years.

In the study by Albert et al. In 2015, it was found that fish oil supplements in New Zealand are heavily oxidized and do not match the label’s omega-3 fatty acid content.

A replication study commissioned by GOED in 2017 showed that using the methods recommended by GOED, which were carried out by several laboratories for each sample, the opposite was the case – most of the products were not oxidized and met the information on the label .

GOED also released a published letter to point out the flawed experimental nature and conclusions of this 2015 study.

In 2017, GOED produced a report on best practices for oxidation control – a valuable addition to industry knowledge.

In addition to considering factors that can determine oxidation – from exposure to air to temperature, light, and many others – the report also mentions that manufacturers can reduce the risk of oxidation by making a smaller bottle pack of 30 or 60 capsules Use less time per bottle in which they are consumed than 200 or 300 capsules per packaging unit.

In a follow-up study in 2018, a multi-year database with almost 2,000 batches of oils and dietary supplements with EPA / DHA ingredients was evaluated. It was found that the vast majority have a high oxidative quality.

GOED is the global EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acid organization serving more than 170 companies across the supply chain, from fisheries and seafood companies to refineries, nutritional supplement manufacturers, food and beverage marketers and pharmaceutical companies.

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