Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

More fish, less oil 



Smoking fish by werehare used under a Creative Commons Licence.

In the past I’ve blogged about fish oil supplements and taken the stance that at best they’re good for you and at worst they’re of no benefit. My belief was that if you’re not eating the recommended two servings of fatty fish per week (as most of us aren’t) that you may as well go for fish oil to try to at least get some of the benefits. Some new research has given me pause to think.

According to an exposé by CBC’s Marketplace and The Fifth Estate, some fish oil supplements may be rancid. In one brand of fish oil supplements that they tested it showed twice the Health Canada allowable level of oxidation. This was well before the expiry date on the bottle.

Unfortunately, when fish oil capsules, or even many liquid supplements, go rancid it’s not so easy to tell without access to a lab. This is because many manufacturers add flavours to mask the fishy taste. Your fish oil might even be rancid before you get it home so your best efforts to store it in a cool dark place may be for naught.

The harm caused by consuming rancid fish oil supplements likely exceeds any potential benefits you might obtain from them. While there is limited research in humans, oxidized fish oils (or any oxidized oils for that matter) contain free radicals which could potentially cause damage to your cells and contribute to the development and progression of some chronic diseases.

As a dietitian I’m generally always preaching that we should aim to obtain the majority of our nutrients from whole foods, as opposed to supplements. It’s beginning to look like fish is another case where this may be true. Until more conclusive research is conducted I’ll be hedging my bets, clearing the fish oil capsules from the fridge, and aiming to eat fish more regularly.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

3 thoughts on “More fish, less oil 

  1. Too bad it’s impossible to get wild Atlantic salmon anymore. :(


    • I know! At least there’s still pacific as well as sardines, mackerel, trout, and tuna.


      • Had closed containment salmon at Wooden Monkey recently – it was the lovely pale pink of genuine Atlantic salmon, unlike the usual farmed salmon that is dyed to look like Pacific salmon! And it tasted good, too.


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