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Are cheap fish oil capsules OK?
May 25, 2009 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Are Trader Joe's Salmon Oil capsules still good for you even though they are so much cheaper then health food store brands?

I would like to take fish oil capsules for health benefits but I found that the prices of fish oil capsules that are "molecularly distilled" and therefore, clear of toxic heavy metals, are very expensive. But, I found that Trader Joe's carries molecularly disitilled salmon oil capsules and sells them for $7 for a large bottle. A comparable bottle of the health food store brands would be $30 to $50 or more. How can this Trader Joe's Salmon Oil be so inexpensive? Are they really a high quality supplement that is benficial to take?
posted by bobbyno to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you mean the Omega-3 capsules, a friend of mine with type 2 diabetes was put on Omega-3 as part of her regimen and bought it all at Trader Joe's - nothing to indicate that it was anything but great.
posted by ninotchka at 12:12 PM on May 25, 2009


Trader Joe's has their own producers and suppliers. They also sell salmon. This is what they do. They make their own label stuff and sell it at a discount. Two Buck Chuck, anyone? Don't worry about the vitamins contents. Worry that they won't be a huge seller and Trader Joe's will discontinue them.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:23 PM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


This clinical nutrionist thinks they are just fine. Efficacy near the bottom.
Yahoo Answers has some (unhelpful) anecdotes about the product.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2009


The Costco ones are about the same price. They were recommended to me by my doctor, who takes the same ones I do. I don't think price is the discriminating factor for fish oil.
posted by procrastination at 12:38 PM on May 25, 2009


When you pay a premium you will get a superior product. It's as simple as that. I would never buy Trader Joe's or Costco vitamins or fish oil, simply because they are inexpensive. The cheap stuff has probably not been tested for PCB's, pesticides, metals or dioxins either.

Why waste your money on something that doesn't work or something dangerous?

Look for capsules made from small fish caught in the cold northern channels of the Pacific or Atlantic.
posted by Zambrano at 2:21 PM on May 25, 2009


When you pay a premium you will get a superior product. It's as simple as that. I would never buy Trader Joe's or Costco vitamins or fish oil, simply because they are inexpensive. The cheap stuff has probably not been tested for PCB's, pesticides, metals or dioxins either.

According to ConsumerLab: Costco, Wal-Mart, and Target are all "free of mercury, PCBs and other contaminants found in fish." Obviously product quality varys and I agree premium is better. Personally I use Biotest Flameout.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:46 PM on May 25, 2009


If they are indeed molecularly distilled, then my understanding is you haven't got anything to worry about. The daily values section from the article on omega-3 fatty acids on wikipedia has some relevant information. Most notably:
A perceived risk of fish oil n−3 supplementation has been heavy metal poisoning by the body's accumulation of traces of heavy metals, in particular mercury, lead, nickel, arsenic and cadmium as well as other contaminants (PCBs, furans, dioxins), which potentially might be found especially in less-refined fish oil supplements. However, in reality, heavy metal toxicity from consuming fish oil supplements is highly unlikely. This is because heavy metals selectively bind with protein in the fish flesh rather than accumulate in the oil. An independent test in 2006 of 44 fish oils on the US market found that all of the products passed safety standards for potential contaminants.
Sounds like contamination should be a non issue to me, even if you weren't buying the molecularly distilled variety. However, if you're still worried, maybe you can check to see if they've met some of the established standards for contaminants.
Historically, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have published acceptable standards regarding contaminants in fish oil. The most stringent current standard is the International Fish Oils Standard (IFOS). Fish oils that typically make this highest grade are those that are molecularly distilled under vacuum, and have virtually no measurable level of contaminants (measured parts per billion and parts per trillion).
Is there anything on the labelling about these standards? If not, maybe you can contact the manufacturer to find out whether or not they've been tested and what standards they meet.

If you're not worried about contamination, then the only remaining thing I can think of would be whether or not the oil has degraded. Omega-3 fatty acids are susceptible to oxidation, but in most fish oil capsules that I've seen, they add some vitamin E (listed on my bottle of fish oil capsules as 'mixed natural tocopherols'). I assume it's as an antioxidant to keep the oil from degrading while it sits around in storage or on the shelf, so hopefully that's not a major issue either.

I don't think you have anything to worry about, but I'm far from an expert on the topic. I've just done a bunch of reading about omega-3 fatty acids lately. The only other thing I can think of is that maybe the other brands contain more EPA and DHA per capsule than the one you're looking at. A friend of mine has a large bottle of fish oil capsules very similar to the one I have, but each capsule only contains half the amount of DHA/EPA, so it was cheaper. Some also have a different balance of DHA to EPA and the price varies depending on that as well.
posted by benign at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2009


I was told my doctor that you can test the quality of a fish oil capsule by freezing it. If you cut or pierce the capsule and the oil inside is still liquid, it's pure or nearly pure; if it solidifies in the freezer, buy another brand.
posted by HotPatatta at 5:31 PM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


^I was told by my doctor...
posted by HotPatatta at 5:32 PM on May 25, 2009


Thanks everyone for taking the time to contribute your opinions. I really appreciate it!
posted by bobbyno at 6:04 PM on May 25, 2009




I was told my doctor that you can test the quality of a fish oil capsule by freezing it. If you cut or pierce the capsule and the oil inside is still liquid, it's pure or nearly pure; if it solidifies in the freezer, buy another brand.



Your doctor is full of shit. The impurities referred to (PCBs, heavy metals) could be present in 10-100x the acceptable level before significantly afecting the phase behavior of the liquid.
posted by lalochezia at 8:21 PM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


When buying Omega-3 supplements, look for the USP Verified label and make sure you`re getting EPA and DHA. ARA and ALA are not the varieties that your body needs, so have to be converted by your body into EPA and DHA.

Also, don`t get anything that`s a combination of Omega-3 and Omega-6. A big part of the reason to supplement is to fix the imbalance between Omega-3 and 6. Taking both keeps the 3:6 ratio too low.
posted by Hali at 7:09 AM on May 30, 2009


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