A shocking revelation by George Washington University has spread shockwaves through the community. The study, published on September 7 was conducted over a long period of time and broadcasted the result. Result stated that the most Omega 3 supplements which are consumed by over 10% of the American population are not fresh. Possibly it has a fishy odor emanating which means it has been oxidized and this doesn’t give the desired effect. This could mean various consequences for the consumers who depend on the supplement for essential nutrients.
The diet supplement industry in the U.S. has always drawn criticism. It is due to the fact that it is not standardized, unlike the drug market. It has resulted in their widespread abuse. While even an over-the-counter drug has to seek approval from the FDA, food supplements are bound by no such rules. According to Federal law, the brand producing the product has to bear the onus of its effectiveness solely. As the accountability goes down, so does the quality.
Omega 3 supplements are obtained from plant-based algae or fishes like Cod. It is usually taken to fulfill the need for omega-fatty acids by the body. The fatty acids are a set of polyunsaturated fats that include EPA, DHA, and ALA. An increase in the consumption of fish oils was prompted by a study by the National Institutes of Health. It states that fish oil supplements have higher bioavailability when compared to some other sources. Additionally, it is also recommended to be consumed by at-risk health groups, especially Cardiovascular diseases. A popular brand states the benefits of its supplements from managing depression to ensuring heart health, brain function, and eye health. Moreover, it suggests relief to people grappling with diseases like joint pains including arthritis.
Shedding light on the problem, the author of the paper titled, A multiyear analysis of rancidity analysis of 72 omega supplements, Leigh. A. Frame opines, “Our study suggests many of these health supplements are not fresh and thus may not provide a potential health benefit…The findings also suggest that consumers don’t get what they paid for.” The omega-3 supplements market accounts for over 5.6 billion and is said to grow exponentially as the decade approaches. But is it really worth it?
The study further unveils the appalling numbers; over 45% of flavored and unflavoured omega-3 supplements belonging to popular brands were known to be rancid. When a supplement goes rancid, its exposure to oxygen increases while its effectiveness plummets. To put this into perspective, a study found that people who consumed non-oxidized supplements had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels when compared to those who took oxidized pills. The flavoring of the supplements further raises eyebrows due to two reasons. Scientists believe that firstly, it can do away with the “fishy smell” that distinguishes fresh ones from stale ones. Secondly, it fails to accurately determine its exposure to oxidation before it is packed for sale further complicating the situation. If the pack is completely sealed, how can it be exposed to Oxygen?
Jacob Hands, the co-author of the study is of the opinion that the exposure can be due to several reasons. An answer could lie in the amount of time it stays in storage and the area where they are stored before reaching a consumer. Additionally eating a rancid supplement can perhaps cause no distress. But in some cases lead to inflammation in the worst-case scenario.
Considering how every day the popularity of Omega-3 supplements skyrockets, it is imperative that the government poses some restrictions on the sale of these so as to prevent abuse.
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