Labdoor analyzed 11 best-selling vegan omega-3 supplements in the United States, measuring levels of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA, DHA, and ALA, heavy metal contamination (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury), and oxidation.
On average, measured amounts of EPA varied by 19.1% off the label claims, DHA by 4.9%, and ALA by 2.5%. Four out of eight products that measured EPA and DHA met the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids’ 500 mg/day recommendation for combined EPA + DHA intake in one serving.
In all 11 products, the measured amounts of the heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury) met our purity standards (10 mcg/serving, 4.1 mcg/serving, 0.5 mcg/serving, and 0.3 mcg/serving, respectively). These purity standards are based on California’s Proposition 65. The peroxide values (a measure of rancidity) had a wide spread, ranging from 0.7 to 59 meq/kg (average 10.9 meq/kg, Labdoor limit of 5 meq/kg). The Labdoor peroxide value limit is based off of recommendations from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 1.
The nine products that claimed DHA in this batch measured an average of 4.9% more DHA than claimed.
Of the 11 products in this batch, nine products claimed DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). For these products, measured DHA deviated from label claims by an average of 4.9%. Seven products claimed EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Measured EPA in these products deviated from label claims by an average of 19.1%, ranging from -9.2% to +42.8% compared to label claims. Only three products claimed ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Measured ALA in these products deviated from label claims by an average of 2.5%.
Four out of 11 products recorded peroxide levels (a measure of rancidity) at or above the Labdoor limit of 5 meq/kg.
All products in this category passed Labdoor's heavy metal screenings, and seven fell below our peroxide value threshold of 5 meq/kg.
Labdoor's purity standards are based on California Proposition 65 2, which publishes proposed and established limits for safe consumption of heavy metals in a full day, based on research from long-term exposure. These include: 10 mcg/day for arsenic, 4.1 mcg/day for cadmium, 0.5 mcg/day for lead, and 0.3 mcg/day for mercury. A product passes a heavy metal screening if its measured levels in one serving do not meet or exceed these limit.
Additionally, Labdoor’s Product Purity score for this category factors in products’ peroxide values. Peroxide value is a measure of rancidity, or the extent to which the oil has undergone oxidation. Products were penalized if their recorded peroxide value met or exceeded our limit of 5 meq/kg. This limit is based on recommendations from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 2.
The most caloric product in this batch recorded 60 calories per serving.
Labdoor's Nutritional Value score for this category takes into account the presence of macronutrients not vital to the efficacy of omega-3 supplements like saturated fats and sugars. None of the products in this batch were a significant source of these macronutrients. Products generally recorded minimal calories in this category.
Four out of 11 products recorded the inactive ingredient, “caramel color”, which CSPI categorizes as an additive that should be avoided.
Products were penalized for additives based on the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)’s safety ratings for additives 3, scientific studies, and Generally Recognized as Safe 4 (GRAS) statuses published by the FDA. Outside of four products that recorded caramel color, products in this category recorded minimal additives that were considered to have notable health risks.
No products that reported ALA met ISSFAL’s 1,560 mg/day recommendation in one serving.
Scientific studies provide evidence to support that omega-3 fatty acids like EPA, DHA, and ALA help improve cardiovascular conditions, such as hyperlipidemia, coronary heart disease, and hypertension 5.
The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) recommends that the general adult population consume at least 500 mg/day of EPA + DHA combined for general cardiovascular health. ISSFAL does not list individual recommendations for EPA or DHA. With respect to ALA, ISSFAL recommends that 0.7% of daily calories come from ALA - 1,560 mg/day assuming the average 2000 calorie diet 6.
Three products in this batch measured ALA, averaging 872 mg/serving. None of these products met ISSFAL's recommended 1,560 mg/day in one serving. Nine products in this batch measured both EPA and DHA, averaging 414.2 mg/serving combined. Half of these products met ISSFAL’s 500 mg/day recommendation in one serving.
Any product that met either of the above ISSFAL daily recommendations for EPA + DHA or ALA in one serving was awarded full Projected Efficacy points. In the case where neither threshold was met, scores were calculated for both EPA + DHA combined and ALA alone in which the product was penalized based on differences between measured and recommended values. The higher score of the two was then taken as the final Projected Efficacy score.
- 1GOED Omega-3. (2015). GOED Voluntary Monograph.
- 2OEHHA. (2016). Proposition 65 No Significant Risk Levels (NSRLs) for Carcinogens and Maximum Allowable Dose Levels (MADLs) for Chemicals Causing Reproductive Toxicity.
- 3CSPI. (2016). Chemical Cuisine.
- 4FDA. (2017). Generally Recognized as Safe.
- 5Simopolous AP. (2002). Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease: The epidemiological evidence. Environ Health Prev Med. 6(4):203-209.
- 6ISSFAL. (2004). Report on Dietary Intake of Essential Fatty Acids.