Purchasing and Taking Care of Omega-3 Supplements

EPA and DHA omega-3 oils are sensitive to oxidation, a reaction of the unsaturated fatty acids when exposed to oxygen. Some oxidation is perfectly fine – think of apple flesh that turns brown once it’s sliced – but prolonged oxidation can affect product quality. Light and temperature can affect oxidation rate, but by taking certain precautions you can protect the quality of your omega-3 product. 

Go Dark

It’s best to purchase omega-3 products sold in bottles made of opaque plastic or dark glass, or in blister packs. Both options limit the amount of light reaching the capsules. Some omega-3 supplements are dark-colored themselves, which also helps block the light.

Keep Cool

Once you open a bottle of softgels or liquid oil, the oxidation process begins. Supplements should be stored in cool conditions, out of direct sunlight. This is especially important in hot and humid climates.

A cabinet or drawer in the bedroom or kitchen is an ideal spot for storing supplements. Avoid cabinets close to the stove, and do not store your omega-3 product in the bathroom where the higher humidity can affect the quality.

Some products, such as liquids, are best stored in the refrigerator. Some people prefer to store capsules in the refrigerator although it is not necessary. For capsules that are stored in the refrigerator: don’t be alarmed if the capsules look a little cloudy. This is called winterization and is normal when any oils, including salad dressing, gets cold. It is not a safety or quality issue.

It is not recommended to store omega-3 supplements in the freezer as the capsules can become brittle and easily damaged.

Limit Air Exposure

Omega-3 products are made to withstand some oxidation, at least until their expiration date, if not longer, but be sure to keep them tightly sealed between openings and do your best to finish the product before the expiration date. 

Adding omega-3 oils to smoothies or shakes is a great way to boost EPA and DHA intake, but be sure to add the oil after blending or vigorous shaking. That’s because the act of blending brings in a lot of air into the beverage. All that extra air will react with the omega-3s and release more of the aromas. By adding the oils as a “finisher” at the end you can avoid any off odors.

On the Nose

When it comes to fish oils (or other marine-based oils such as krill and algae), a mild fishy smell is normal. An extreme off-smell, however, is not. It is important to note that even a very fishy-smelling product is not unsafe, just unpleasant. If the product smells bad and is beyond its expiration date, then it should be discarded.

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Choose Wisely

With numerous omega-3 supplements on the market, how do you choose the best one? Supplement manufacturers that are members of GOED (the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s), adhere to standards of quality and good manufacturing practices that are as strict or stricter than regulations around the world. For more information about GOED’s commitment to quality and for a list of member companies that make supplements, click here