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

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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.