Understanding Mercury Levels in Fish Oil-Sourced Omega-3 Supplements

Eating fish and consuming fish oil supplements to get an adequate amount of omega-3 has become very popular, but many still have concerns over possible mercury contamination that is known to affect the fish population. Mercury is a neurotoxin, and according to the CDC, can cause vision problems, lack of coordination, impairment of speech and hearing, and muscle weakness.

Types of Fish Matter

Because getting enough omega-3 in your diet is difficult, many people turn to fish oil supplements to achieve this goal. However, the type of fish that is used and the way a supplement is manufactured can greatly affect the amount of mercury its users ingest. Fish that have the highest amount of mercury are generally larger predators. These include Spanish or Gulf mackerel, albacore or yellowfin tuna, sea bass and grouper. Smaller, lower mercury fish such as sardines, anchovies, salmon and whitefish (like perch and tilapia) are a better choice.

Check for Safe Processing

Supplements that are manufactured based on quality standards are taken through a distillation process that separates mercury and other toxins from the pure fish oil. It is virtually impossible to eliminate all traces of mercury, but facilities that are FDA registered and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certified are most trustworthy, since their supplements are tested by third party laboratories. So, when selecting a supplement, check to see if distillation was part of the process, and whether or not the facility is regulated by an outside agency.

PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls)

The use of PCBs was banned in 1979, but by then they had already entered the air, water and soil. So, there is some concern that it can still be present in some of the foods we eat. Trusted, quality manufacturers will make sure that the fish they include in their supplements are devoid of any PCBs. The good news is that studies that tested many fish oil supplements on the market found that they did not contain any contaminants.

Selecting the Right Supplement for You

When choosing a fish oil-based omega-3 supplement, make sure the manufacturer has used a distillation process to remove toxins. It is an extra bonus if it has been registered by the FDA or is from a facility that is GMP certified. Most fish oil supplements on the market are indeed safe for human consumption, so you can feel confident getting your omega-3 this way if you are unable to get it through your diet.