Modern Dietary Fat Intakes in Disease Promotion

Part of the series Nutrition and Health pp 321-342


Anthropogenic and Naturally Produced Contaminants in Fish Oil: Role in Ill Health

  • Adrian CovaciAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Toxicological Center, University of Antwerp Email author 
  • , Alin C. DirtuAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Toxicological Center, University of AntwerpDepartment of Chemistry, “Al. I. Cuza” University of Iasi

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Key Points

• Fish oil dietary supplements are recommended to increase the intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), renowned for their beneficial effects to human health.

• Fish oil dietary supplements contain anthropogenic contaminants, such as organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated dioxins and furans, polybrominated diphenyl ethers and mercury. Recently, a number of organobrominated compounds, such as methoxylated-PBDEs and polybrominated hexahydroxanthenes derivatives, naturally produced by marine organisms (e.g., algae and sponges) have also been identified in commercial fish oil dietary supplements.

• Since fish oil dietary supplements are consumed on a daily basis, concerns are issued about the presence of various contaminants in these capsules with improvements in the preparation and purification of supplements have reduced dramatically the contaminant’s concentrations.

• Fish oil dietary supplements might be a suitable alternative to fish consumption for certain groups of the population for which fish consumption advice has been issued such as pregnant women or children.

• There is also a stringent need to regularly monitor the presence of “classical” and “new” contaminants together with naturally occurring compounds, in marine products destined for human consumption.


Anthropogenic Organohalogenated contaminants Naturally produced Beneficial health effect Fish oil dietary supplements Dietary intake