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. 2015 Nov 4;4:e30. doi: 10.1017/jns.2015.21. eCollection 2015.


The aim of the present study was to evaluate the oxidation status of North American n-3 (omega-3) PUFA nutritional supplements commercially available in Canada and evaluate the influence of product formulation and delivery form on oxidative safety. A total of 171 North American over-the-counter n-3 PUFA nutritional supplements were analysed for oxidation safety. Primary and secondary oxidation and total oxidation (TOTOX) were determined using the American Oil Chemists' Society (AOCS) procedures. Comparisons between supplements' final forms, oil source and n-3 PUFA concentration quartiles, as measures of product formulations and delivery forms, were compared using ANOVA. Of the products successfully tested, 50 % exceeded the voluntary recommended levels for markers of oxidation. Another 18 % of products were approaching the limits with 1-3 years before expiration. Encapsulated products without flavour additives had significantly lower secondary and TOTOX levels than bulk oils and flavoured products (P < 0·05). Children's products had significantly higher primary, secondary and TOTOX levels compared with all other products (P < 0·05). Markers of oxidation did not differ between oil sources (P > 0·05), with the exception of krill oil products having higher secondary oxidation levels than plant-based products (P > 0·05). Markers of oxidation did not differ between n-3 PUFA supplement concentration quartiles. Consumers may be at risk of exposure to higher levels of oxidative products. New regulatory mandates need to be introduced to ensure that all n-3 PUFA products, used as nutritional supplements, regardless of their formulation or delivery form, can be tested for oxidative safety and compliance.

Keywords: AOCS, American Oil Chemists’ Society; Anisidine; CRN, Council for Responsible Nutrition; GOED, Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s; IFOS, International Fish Oil Standards; OTC, over-the-counter; Omega-3 supplements; PUFA; Peroxides; TOTOX, total oxidation; Total oxidation; n-3 Supplements.