Carlson fish oil has become a popular fish oil supplement in recent years. Carlson’s has been producing supplements for over 40 years, but only relatively recently have they begun producing fish oil supplements. While they are known for producing quality vitamin
products, fish oil is a whole different animal (no pun intended) and their fish oil supplements seem to have much to be desired.
Cod Liver and Salmon Oil?
My first concern is that they produce Cod Liver Oil and Salmon Oil. These are both inferior sources of omega-3s, but they’re highly-marketable. Cod Liver Oil can be legally made from fish other than cod, after which synthetic Vitamin A and D are often added. I don’t know if this is the case with Carlson cod liver oil, but I don’t see information about the source on their website. There’s nothing special about salmon oil, except that salmon is generally considered a very toxic fish that the FDA has warned to limit the consumption of.
Carlson Fish Oil Potency
My second concern is potency: the Omega-3 concentrations of most of their fish oil products range from 10% to 30%, a far cry from the 60% that I always recommend in pharmaceutical-grade products. This means that you have to take a lot more Carlson fish oil (sometimes 6 times as much!) to get the same amount of omega-3s as many other brands! They do have a couple of products that have 60%, which shows they recognize the importance, but they are the most expensive products they offer. And of course, they’re both ethyl-ester products (rather than the natural triglyceride-based) which are illegal in Canada and other countries.
The Purity of Carlson Fish Oil
My final concern is about contamination. They certainly don’t test every batch of Carlson fish oil with the International Fish Oil Standards program, like I always recommend when considering a fish oil supplement. They claim that every fish oil product is “is regularly tested (using AOAC international protocols) for freshness, potency and purity by an independent, FDA-registered laboratory and has been determined to be fresh, fully potent and free of detectable levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants.” The AOAC is an international association of companies that seeks to establish testing standards. However, what Carlson’s fails to mention about “AOAC international protocols” is that the AOAC currently has no approved method for testing Omega-3s!
Furthermore, Carlson’s doesn’t publish the results of testing their fish oil capsules on their website, even though it would be easy to do so, and even fails to identify who their third-party FDA-registered laboratory is. They also don’t explain how often their “regular testing” is, or whether EVERY batch is tested (probably not). This isn’t to say that it would be unsafe to take Carlson fish oil, but rather it would be difficult to tell based on the limited amount of information.
If you are considering taking Carlson fish oil, maybe it’s good and maybe it’s not. The only way to know for sure is to only buy fish oil products tested and certified by the third-party International Fish Oil Standards program.