Quality, Purity, and Freshness of Omega 3 fatty acids in Fish Oil

There’s something fishy about most of the Omega-3 supplements on the market!

By Dwayne N. Jackson, PhD

Do you take a daily fish oil omega-3 supplement with hopes to keep inflammation in check and improve health? If you answered yes---then you are not alone. In fact, millions of people in North America take a daily omega-3 supplement!

Fish oils are loaded with the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Research claims many health benefits are associated with omega-3 fish oil supplementation including prevention of cardiovascular disease, reduced cognitive decline, and the improvement in inflammatory diseases (e.g., arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma).

BUT… Did you know that many of the fish oil and omega-3 supplements on the market cause more harm than good?

Omega-3 supplements are readily available online, at supermarkets, pharmacies, and in supplement stores across the continent. However, although omega-3 supplements seem to be everywhere, there is extreme variability in potency, purity, and freshness. In fact, recent research tells us that many (IF NOT, MOST) fish oil supplements contain several unreported impurities that can lead to serious health problems, plus many fish oil supplements are highly susceptible to oxidation (more on rancid fish oil below) and fail to meet label claims for omega-3(DHA and EPA) concentration!

Omega-3 dietary supplements come from a variety of sources, including fish (i.e., fish oil), krill, and plants (algae). Nearly all contain DHA and EPA, but several peer reviewed publications have raised significant concerns regarding omega-3 content as well as the quality and purity of many omega-3 products on the market [1-7].

Inaccurate label claims and contamination in fish oil supplements

Studies have shown that the actual concentrations of DHA and EPA in omega-3 supplements may be far below or far in excess of the labeled amounts (1, 8, 9).  In addition, many studies also report that many of the omega-3 supplements on the market contain contaminants and unlisted ingredients such as high concentrations of cholesterol, saturated fats, lipid peroxides, and oxidation products (2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12).

Most of the fish oil on the market is RANCID!

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly susceptible to oxidative degradation. This process transforms healthy omega-3 supplements into extremely unhealthy fats!  Recently, researchers investigated the level of oxidation in omega-3 fish oils available in retail stores across Canada [10]. A total of 171 supplements from 49 brands were evaluated. It was reported that 50 % of the products being sold exceeded limits for oxidation, and 39 % exceeded the international voluntary safety recommendations for total oxidation value (known as TOTOX).

Notably, these findings are not unique to Canada! In the USA, 27 % of products tested were found to have more than twice the recommended levels of lipid peroxides, while in South Africa [11], and New Zealand [8] more than 80 % of supplements tested exceeded recommended levels!

Oxidation of fish oil supplements is a multifaceted process. In fact, the rate and magnitude of fish oil oxidation is influenced by a laundry list of factors including the fatty acid composition of the product, storage temperature, contaminants (e.g., heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, water, etc), exposure to light and oxygen, and antioxidant content [13]. In the early stages of fish oil oxidation, healthy omega-3fatty acids are transformed to hydroperoxides, to eventually become free radicals that can react with unoxidized omega-3 fatty acids. This secondary oxidation step further breaks down the fish oil to produce harmful by-products like alcohols and ketones--- which are why many products smell rancid and give you the dreaded “fish burps” [13, 14].

The presence of contaminants and by-products of oxidation in fish oils negate the health benefits of omega-3 supplements. In fact, rancid fish oil promotes unhealthy systemic inflammation! The abundance of research tells us that most consumer grade fish oil lacks quality and purity. This results in high variability in DHA/EPA concentration among different products and inconsistencies among different batches of the same product.

ATP LAB Omega 3s to the rescue!

ATP Lab’s premium fish oil supplements have the highest potency and are never rancid! In fact, we take every precaution to assure you are getting the highest purity, freshness, and efficacy your money can buy.

How do we do this?

  • First, for all of our omega-3 supplements, we use only the highest quality fresh Anchovy, Sardines, and Mackerel, sourced responsibly from Europe and South Africa. This first step assures that our starting materials are the highest quality, potency and freshness.

  • All of our fish oils undergo molecular distillation steps which effectively remove heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants. These steps also serve to concentrate DHA and EPA in the final product; this is why our omega-3products have the highest purity and potency available.

  • Our fish oils are protected from oxidation. We do this by limiting light exposure of our encapsulated fish oil products (i.e., Omega Pure and Ultra O3). In our liquid Omega-3 triglyceride, we have recently taken significant steps to assure every teaspoon is 100% pure and fresh---this includes limiting the volume of the container to 200ml and adding the industry’s most potent antioxidant blend (i.e., Astaguard SG) to our formulation (more on this below).

  • Like all of our premium supplements, all of the fish oil omega-3 products from ATP Lab are 3rd party tested for purity, freshness, and potency. This assures that you get exactly what’s on the label, consistent from batch to batch, and without contaminants or rancid by-products.

At ATP Lab we are continuously innovating ways to assure you get the best products money can buy. This is why we have recently taken significant steps to increase the freshness of our liquid Omega-3 Triglyceride formulation. Through recent research, we have implemented 2 key pieces of technology which substantially improve the stability!

Our new Omega-3 Triglyceride has 7.6x greater stability over regular fish oil and is 3x more stable than even the best fish oils formulated with Vitamin E, as an antioxidant.

How do we achieve the highest stability in the industry?

  • By slightly decreasing the volume of our Omega-3 Triglyceride from 250ml to 200ml we limit the dynamic process of oxidation, this assures greater freshness over the course of regular use.

  • We have added a novel patented antioxidant blend called Astaguard SG to our formulation. This latest technology protects and stabilizes DHA and EPA and stops the formation of unhealthy oxidation by-products.

In the end, when you choose an ATP Laboratory Omega-3 supplement, you can rest assured that you are getting everything you paid for, without oxidation, without contamination, and with only the most potent DHA and EPA available today!


  • Kleiner, A. C., Cladis, D. P., & Santerre, C. R. (2015). A comparison of actual versus stated label amounts of EPA and DHA in commercial omega-3 dietary supplements in the United States. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(6), 1260–1267.
  • Mason, R. P., & Sherratt, S. C. R. (2017). Omega-3 fatty acid fish oil dietary supplements contain saturated fats and oxidized lipids that may interfere with their intended biological benefits. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 483(1), 425–429.
  • Shim, S. M., Santerre, C. R., Burgess, J. R., & Deardorff, D. C. (2003). Omega-3 fatty acids and total polychlorinated biphenyls in 26 dietary supplements. Journal of Food Science, 68(8), 2436–2440.
  • Truong, P., Johnson, C., & Gabriel, D. (2007). Variability of cholesterol and saturated fat content in dietary supplements [abstract P72]. Circulation, 115(8), e238.
  • Tur, J. A., Bibiloni, M. M., Sureda, A., & Pons, A. (2012). Dietary sources of omega-3fatty acids: Public health risks and benefits. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(Suppl 2), S23–S52.
  • Weitz, D., Weintraub, H., Fisher, E., & Schwartzbard, A. Z. (2010). Fish oil for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Cardiology in Review, 18(5), 258–263.
  • Zargar, A., & Ito, M. K. (2011). Long chain omega-3 dietary supplements: A review of the National Library of Medicine Herbal Supplement Database. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, 9(4), 255–271.
  • Albert, B. B., Derraik, J. G., Cameron-Smith, D., Hofman, P. L., Tumanov, S., Villas-Boas, S. G., Cutfield, W. S. (2015). Fish oil supplements in New Zealand are highly oxidised and do not meet label content of n-3 PUFA. Scientific Reports, 5, 7928.
  • Yi, T., Li, S. M., Fan, J. Y., Fan, L. L., Zhang, Z. F., Luo, P., . . . Chen, H. B. (2014). Comparative analysis of EPA and DHA in fish oil nutritional capsules by GC-MS. Lipids in Health and Disease, 13, 190.
  • Jackowski SA, Alvi AZ, Mirajkar A, et al. (2015) Oxidation levels of North American over-the-counter n-3 (omega-3) supplements and the influence of supplement formulation and delivery form on evaluating oxidative safety. J Nutr Sci 4, e36.
  • Opperman M & Benade S (2013) Analysis of the omega-3 fatty acid content of South African fish oil supplements: a follow-up study. Cardiovasc J Afr 24, 297–302.
  • Ritter JC, Budge SM, Jovica F. (2013) Quality analysis of commercial fish oil preparations. J Sci Food Agric Jun;93(8):1935-9.
  • Shahidi F & Zhong Y (2010) Lipid oxidation and improving the oxidative stability. Chem Soc Rev 39, 4067–4079.
  • Ritter JC & Budge SM (2012) Key lipid oxidation products can be used to predict sensory quality of fish oils with different levels of EPA and DHA. Lipids 47, 1169–1179.

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