Doesn’t it seem like every time you try to do something healthy there is some problem with the “health food” and you feel like you are in a Catch 22 situation? Many researchers and healthcare professionals tout the benefits of fish oil, yet a group that tested ten fish oil supplements and found that all violated California’s Prop 65 labeling requirement because they contained PCBs.
ConsumerLab.com, LLC (“CL”) is the leading provider of independent test results and information to help consumers and healthcare professionals evaluate health, wellness, and nutrition products shed some light on the subject and put things in perspective.
Here are some points to keep in mind:
• Virtually all fish meat and fish oil supplement will contain some PCBs. The samples chosen were oils made primarily made from larger fish (including shark) and fish “liver,” which tend to have higher amounts of contaminants.
The majority of the products had extremely low levels of PCBs. Somewhat higher levels were found in a few products. None of these pose a health risk in themselves, but those with higher levels might unnecessarily contribute to PCB exposure. The products are identified by name in a news release about the suit which includes two tables. The first table shows total PCBs. The second table shows the amount of dioxin-like PCBs, which may be more meaningful as it focuses on the subset of PCBs known to be harmful in animal studies. Be aware that results in both tables are skewed against products that suggest higher daily serving sizes.
• To put the findings in perspective, total daily PCBs reported was under 100 nanograms for most supplements and did not exceed 900 nanograms for any. The FDA permits an 8 ounce serving of fish to contain about 450,000 nanograms of total PCBs, 500 times more than in any of the products. The EPA, using a more conservative approach, estimates that the average adult can consume 1,400 nanograms of total PCBs per day without harmful effects.
Therapeutic doses can range from 1 to 10 grams of fish oil per day depending on the condition being treated. Most people would take 1-4 grams. An average capsule size contains 720mg so the range of PCB’s in most cases would not exceed the EPA daily limits. The bottom line is to carefully choose your dietary supplements and put the risks in perspective. More people suffer from inflammatory conditions than PCB toxicity. Seek the advice of your healthcare provider when taking mega doses and choose companies that have the purest products.