Is Your Fish Oil Rancid?

Fish oil capsules

Think fish oil. If your gut reaction is “yuck” or “burpy,” you are in good company. Somewhere between Grandma’s tablespoons of cod liver oil and the golden horse-pills in the cupboard, the majority of us believe that omega-3 fish oil ought to taste bad. We put up with the fishy taste and smell because, well, it’s hard to argue with the significant health benefits substantiated in thousands of research studies.

In truth, omega-3 supplements should not taste like yesteryear’s salmon dinner. If your omega-3 fish oil supplement smells like turpentine or makes you burp fish all day, you most likely have a rancid product on your hands.

Here is what you need to know about freshness and fish oil:

Purity Versus Freshness 

The scientific world and the general public have long focused on purity as the major indicator of quality. Your omega-3 product having low toxicity levels is certainly important. Today, most respectable omega-3-producing companies provide a certificate of analysis that shows the exact levels of toxins and heavy metals in the oil.

However, the “purity” of the product says nothing about the freshness of the oil. New studies coming out of Scandinavia indicate that the freshness of the oil could determine whether or not you experience any of the omega-3 health benefits.

What is Rancidity?

Fish oil, unlike many other oils, has a chemical structure that makes it highly susceptible to spoiling or oxidation. The oxidation process begins as soon as the fish is caught and continues as the oil is exposed to oxygen, heat or light. As the oil oxidizes, it begins to release a distinct pungent, sharp odor and off-flavors. Most likely, you’ve run into this problem before – either with sour milk or bad meats.

Why Freshness Matters 

Aside from the obvious aversion to consuming rancid products, taking rancid fish oil is far less effective than taking fresh fish oil. There are two important members within the omega-3 family that offer important health benefits: DHA and EPA. Recommended by the American Heart Association, these main workhorses of the omega-3 family are highly susceptible to oxidation.

As the fish oil begins to oxidize, or become rancid, the potency of the DHA/EPA drops. Instead of providing heart protection, oxidized oils can actually increase the rate of atherosclerosis (build-up of plaque in the arteries). This is why it is vital that your fish oil supplement is not only pure, but also has low oxidation levels.

Graph of omega-3 rancidity levels

How to Combat Rancidity in 5 Easy Steps

Step 1: Evaluate your current product. The best way to tell whether or not your omega-3 supplement is fresh is the good ol’ taste and smell test. If you have capsules, break them open. If your nose gets a whiff of something that reminds you of turpentine, then be advised: throw your capsules away and get something else.

Step 2: Make smart purchases. Fish oil is a food substance that is highly perishable, just like milk or meat. To a certain degree it can be stabilized, but beware of labels that have a two to three year expiration date. These products have most likely been sitting on the shelf for years, and almost certainly contain rancid oil.

Step 3: Remember that bigger is not always better. Reach for small containers, not supersized bottles when buying fish oil. The longer a fish oil is stored, even in enclosed capsules, the greater the chance it will becomes rancid over time.

Step 4: Keep it cold. Buy fish oil that you can store in the freezer or refrigerator. Low temperatures slow down the enzymatic time bomb that is ticking away. Note: you cannot store capsules in the refrigerator because they will leak – a good reason to ditch the capsules in favor of a liquid fish oil.

Step 5: Use it or lose it. When you first buy fish oil, don’t let it sit around for years. Use it up within a few months. Too often, people hoard old capsules, thinking they are saving money. But remember, you wouldn’t save spoiled fish in the refrigerator, hoping to someday eat it. Think of fish oil supplements the same way, and throw old product out.

The Fresh Fish Oil Alternative

At Omega3 Innovations, quality and freshness is the foundation of all our products. We are dedicated to manufacturing omega-3 fish oil that has one-hundredth the oxidation levels of most other omega-3 fish oil competitors.

To learn more about the importance of freshness and omega-3 fish oil, download our revealing whitepaper,  “The Rancid Truth about Omega-3 Fish Oil.”

Get the Facts on Freshness, Omega-3 and Your Health. Read the Rancid Truth about Omega-3 Fish Oil.

Anne-Marie Chalmers, MD

Dr. Chalmers is the co-founder and president of Omega3 Innovations, the fresh fish oil company. Born and raised in the United States, Dr. Chalmers graduated from Interlochen School for the Gifted and Brown University. She completed her medical training at the University of Oslo in Norway. Dr. Chalmers has practiced emergency, family, and preventive medicine for many years, serving both at high-tech hospitals and as a barefoot doctor in rural Norway. Her research and development work has included nutraceuticals (especially omega-3) and medical delivery device systems to facilitate ingestion of multiple medication combinations.

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4 Responses

  1. nixchiropractic@suddenlinkmail.com' Lisa Stevens says:

    I am looking for fish oil that doesn’t smell bad. Do you have a sample of your oil that I could try first before purchase it? Also I would love all the information you have. Thank you so much

    • Hi Lisa Stevens!

      Wonderful to hear from you! Unless you are a Sarasota resident, we unfortunately don’t have any samples to send you at the moment. However, in September, we will launch our newest product, Omega Cure Extra Strength. Omega Cure Extra Strength delivers our ultra-fresh fish oil in single-serving glass vials. We are planning to package those glass vials in a one-week trial kit, which would give you an opportunity to sample the oil at a significantly reduced rate.

      Also, if you go ahead and give us a call at the office (941-485-4400), then one of our customer service representatives will be more than happy to take your address and put together material for you. I can also direct you to some of our online information, if you can tell me more about what you are looking to know.

      Finally, if you are interested in joining our mailing list, we do put together monthly newsletters with a lot of great information, as well as send out regular product offerings. That might be an interesting way for you to get better acquainted with our products!

      Hope this helps! We look forward to hearing from you.

  2. gregstan2@hotmail.com' stan says:

    here in India, we have good reviews of Nature’s bounty fish oil. Do you think they are up to standards in maintaining the quality of oil (logevity) until ,the expiry date.

    • While we can’t speak for the quality standards at another company, we can give you some pointers on how to evaluate the quality of the oil for yourself. Here’s what we suggest in determining whether or not the product is fresh.

      1) Cut open your fish oil product and taste/smell the oil inside. If it tastes and smell very bad, throw it out. It is rancid.

      2) If you’re still unsure, you can contact the company and ask them to report their PEROXIDE/TOTOX values. Of course, the values they report may be skewed because they would have been taken before the oil went into the capsule and not after the (most likely) many months it took for the capsule to get to you. But knowing the PEROXIDE/TOTOX values would give you an indication as to how much the company values the quality of the oil from the outset.

      We doubt that the great majority of fish oil capsules can be fresh. This is because, during the encapsulation process, the oxygen in the air binds to the gelatin. Over a period of a couple of months, the oil slowly turns rancid. Because many capsule products sit on the shelf for many months or even years before the consumer buys it, the oil inside the capsule is typically highly oxidized by the time most people get around to taking it. For more information on rancidity and capsules, you might be interested in reading “The Rancid Truth about Omega-3 Fish Oil,” which delves more deeply into the topic. Let us know if you have more questions!

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