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Fish Oil Supplements Safer Than Fish

Friday, July 21, 2006

For optimal health of the whole body, including the eyes, the consumption of two or more servings of fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids per week is advocated by the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association, the FDA and the most recent edition of the peer-reviewed journal, Ophthalmology.

However, fresh water, ocean water, and farm raised fish all contain relatively high amounts of environmental toxins such as mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls, (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCs). A study published in the Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine suggests that fish oil supplements are safer than eating fish, at least from the standpoint of toxic impurities.

Review of the three major toxins found in most fish:

  • PCBs: Colorless and odorless chemicals widely used in electrical equipment such as transformers before 1977. 1.2 billion pounds of PCBs in the US ended up in rivers and oceans and were concentrated in long-lived large bottom fish like halibut and sword fish, however lower concentrations have been found in all ocean fish, including tuna.
  • OCs: These are from the pesticides sprayed on crops and forests until around 1980. They were deposited in sediment, rivers and the seas and are still taken up by small fish and organisms today due to their resistance to degradation.

Humans have on average, 1.4 parts per billion of PBCs in their serum. Levels are higher in fatty tissue and breast milk. PCBs and OCs are stable and nonflammable as industrial agents with extremely long half-lives. OC pesticides concentrate 1,000-fold in fish and marine mammals. DDT and its metabolites have been detected in 94% of fish sampled.

PCB and OC Concerns:

  • Neurotoxicity including tremors, seizures, headaches, vomiting, and dizziness. Chronic exposure can lead to reproductive, neurologic, hepatic, and carcinogenic effects. Lower IQ has been associated with in utero exposure to high levels of PCBs and OCs.


Organic mercury compounds like methylmercury can enter the body readily through lungs, skin and stomach. The main human exposure to mercury is through ingestion of fish that contain methylmercury.

  • Both fresh water fish and ocean fish contain high levels of mercury, PCBs, and OC pesticides. These levels increase with age and size of fish, therefore consumption of small fish is advised.
  • Farm-raised salmon have significantly higher levels of PCBs, fat, and cholesterol than wild salmon and can lead to higher PCB intake than the allowable level.
  • Unfortunately, mercury is found in equal concentrations in farm and wild fish.

Mercury concerns:

  • Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, meaning it damages the nervous system. The "mad-hatters" of the 19th century suffered from mercury poisoning which caused severe personality changes, nervousness, trembling, and dementia. The hatters were exposed to mercury in the felting process, where mercury was rubbed onto cloth to preserve it.
Ellen Troyer, MT MA - Biosyntrx Chief Research Officer


The Good News: Biosyntrx ZoOmega-3 includes 300 mg of concentrated ethyl EPA and 200 mg of DHA in each 1000 mg capsule. ZoOmega-3 is guaranteed to contain no discernable amount of mercury, PCBs or OCs. Consumption of high quality fish oil supplements vs. extra fish meals every week provides the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids without the increased risks of toxin overload.


Clinical references available in the Biosyntrx office.