Behind the Looking Glass: A Cautionary Tale of Omega 3 Supplements

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Behind the Looking Glass: A Cautionary Tale of Omega 3 Supplements

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This post serves as the summary of a white paper report done to assess the risk, sustainability, and quality of our Nothing Fishy Here Omega 3 supplement.

This post serves as the summary of a white paper report done to assess the risk, sustainability, and quality of our Nothing Fishy Here Omega 3 supplement.

Fish oil holds the rank of being the most popular supplement consumed in the United States. 

We wondered, however, if this would still hold true if the general public knew what really went into creating these supplements.

There's no doubt that DHA and EPA play important roles in brain function, fetal development, and reduction of inflammation. Numerous studies have shown that deficiencies in omega 3 can lead to health complications ranging from developmental issues all the way to depression.

That being said, Omega 3 alone won’t cure what ails you: but neither will spinach. Taken in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, however, there are unequivocal benefits.

What, then, is the issue?

Contamination. We're talking heavy metals, PCBs, and other marine carcinogens.

Although many companies now state that their product is “treated to remove contaminants” this simply means that the level of contamination now falls below the regulatory limit. This doesn't mean that the product is free from contaminants despite many such claims (labels make easy fools of us all).

Per the International Fish Oil Standards Program, "research suggests that contaminants from edible marine sources can have negative health effects, many of which outweigh the beneficial health effects of omega-3 intake.”

These “treated” products still contain mercury and PCBs, but now we aren't privy to knowing how much. Neat! In fact, the high rates of contamination can actually cancel out any favorable benefits that fish oil supplementation may have. 

In essence, the risks associated with fish oil products pose a greater threat to our health and wellbeing than the risk of being omega 3 deficient.

What about plant options?

Plant-based omega 3 is all well and good (for you) but it doesn’t stack up to the health benefits touted by its marine counterparts. Terrestrial sources of omega 3 contain the fatty acid known as ALA whereas fish and algae have EPA and DHA. Although ALA does technically convert to DHA and EPA in the body, the rate at which this conversion occurs is astonishingly low (to get all the nerdy deets go check this page out). This means that those relying on walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed and the like will ultimately still be omega 3 deficient.

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What is Ora doing differently?

Algae. The original omega 3 source. (It’s where fish get theirs from, after all).

Our Nothing Fishy Here needs no decontamination treatment because it was never exposed to contaminants in the first place. Grown in sterile tanks, it's completely free from PCBs, heavy metals, and other toxins.

With global fish stocks collapsing we’ve also bypassed the issue of overfishing by growing our own sustainable omega 3 sources outside of ocean ecosystems. This means that, while our competitors struggle with regards to supply chain transparency, our model is quite simple. Grow the algae in man-made tanks. Leave the fish in the sea. Craft everything in the USA (100%). Blow minds.

What of product quality?

This is where it gets even fishier. One of the biggest issues the omega 3 industry faces is in the oxidation of the product. Oxidation is what makes fish oil taste fishy (those burps are no joke, am I right?) and can also pose a health risk. (Oxidized lipids beget their own health problems, think: cardiovascular.) In a 2015 study, 50% of fish oils tested were found to have become oxidized beyond the recommended level. Ick!

Not only that but studies have shown that many popular fish oil products contain less DHA and EPA than advertised (seriously, where are the label laws at?). 

Fish oil that’s oxidized, contains less EPA and DHA than advertised, AND is laden with toxic contaminants? No thank you.

To ensure we don’t follow suit our Nothing Fishy Here has undergone a series of 3rd party tests for freshness. Per the American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS), rancidity is determined by measuring levels of both peroxide and anisidine. In a study completed over the course of five months, the peroxide levels in Ora's Nothing Fishy Here remained almost five times lower than the global standard. The quantity of omega 3s also remained consistent throughout the trial period, demonstrating that no fatty acid deterioration was taking place - another indicator of oxidation.

A separate six-month study on shelf life found the DHA and EPA levels of Nothing Fishy Here remained high, at 301 and 258 respectively. Comparatively, many fish oil products weigh in at the single digits for both DHA and EPA after six months on a shelf. Not only is oxidation of fish oil a concern because customers aren't getting their money's worth, but product deterioration this significant is worrisome because oxidized lipids can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Last but certainly not least: what of the workers?

It’s now relatively well known that the seafood industry has strong ties to slavery or forced labor - with an explicit link to the production of fish oil. In an effort to redefine this status quo and support the workers without which this product would not be possible, Ora has created a code of conduct for our supply chain that prohibits all human rights abuses. Our suppliers are required to contractually agree to follow the policy and to ensure that their sub-suppliers comply as well.

It’s with confidence that we can proudly declare our product superior to, well, just about anything out there. Not only is our omega 3 100% toxin-free, it contributes in no part to the global fishing epidemic, isn’t tainted by the marks of slavery, and is still of the highest grade available.


We hope our customers take heart in our mission to provide sustainable, ethically sourced products and are subsequently inspired to use their own consumer power to demand more of other companies in our arena. The way in which we spend our money, as a society of consumers, dictates the products of our future. 

Always demand better.