If you’ve been reading this newsletter for awhile, or even following the traditional media recently, you know that fish oil/cod liver oil have enormous health benefits -- specifically, they are one of the very few sources of omega-3 with DHA and EPA that Americans are so desperately lacking In short, as part of a healthy eating plan, it is essential for nearly every American to include fish oil in their daily diet.
Just as important, though, is to ensure that the fish oil is of the highest quality. Otherwise, the benefits will likely be minimized, or reduced altogether, as the situation with Costco fish oil below suggests.
I have recommended fish oils to my patients for several years. Early on, based on my research and discussions with other medical professionals, I realized that the Carlson’s brand of fish oil and cod liver oil is of exceptional quality, with no detectable heavy metal or toxin levels. Indeed, over time it has proved to provide outstanding clinical benefits.
Also early on, however, one of my primary mentors on omega-3 recommended the Costco brand of fish oil for its low cost and high quality. I was a bit surprised they could sell 300 capsules for under $8 and still make a profit, but I also realized my patients might appreciate the savings. The price of the Carlson’s oil is higher, and the Carlson’s was also generally more difficult to find than the Costco.
So I had the Costco fish oil analyzed by three different labs. They found the heavy metal content was indeed very low, and the oxidation products were also quite low, so I felt it was reasonable to recommend their oil. A number of health care professionals gave me flack for recommending fish oil from Costco, but I believed I had done my due diligence with the lab testing and, as always, wanted the best for my patients and readers, in terms of quality and price.
Well, I started using the Costco brand in my own practice, and I started consuming it myself. Not too long ago, however, I began to notice that many of my patients who had positive benefits with the Carlson’s oil -- specifically, many of those with Raynaud's, Scleroderma and Rheumatoid arthritis -- started to relapse once they switched to the Costco brand.
What’s more, I started to have my own negative experience with the Costco fish oil. Some of you may know I have beta-thalassemia. This is a genetic anemia somewhat similar to sickle cell anemia that frequently results in very low cholesterol levels as a side effect. My normal cholesterol level is around 110-120. For many years I had been unable to normalize it, but earlier this year I was finally able to increase it to 185 through a combination of raw egg yolks and cod liver oil. I was not surprised, as cod liver oil and fish oil have been shown to help normalize cholesterol levels; if your cholesterol levels are too high, it should help lower it, and if your cholesterol levels are too low, it should help raise it.
Mine remained at 185 for 4 months until I switched to Costco fish oil; my cholesterol then dropped to 140. As I hadn't changed anything else in my diet, this strongly suggested that the Costco fish oil was not helping to normalize my cholesterol levels, as the Carlson's had done. Sure enough, when I switched to Carlson’s fish oil that I now offer on the site, my cholesterol increased back up to 180. Furthermore, some of my patients with high cholesterol had found that the Carlson's was lowering their cholesterol levels, but their levels began to rise again when they switched to the Costco, so they switched back to Carlson's.
I immediately stopped recommending the Costco brand, to my patients and here in the newsletter, because it was clear there was some unmeasured variable or factor in the Costco oil that was lowering its effectiveness -- in many of my patients, and in myself -- relative to the Carlson brand. This is not to suggest that the Costco brand is dangerous in any way; from what I have seen, though, it is far less effective than Carlson’s. My suspicion is that some damage is occurring to the molecular structure of the Costco fish oil in the processing and transfer to the capsules that impairs its effectiveness, though that’s only an educated guess.
Whatever the case, I now advise against the Costco fish oil, and strongly suggest using caution with other brands. I have not examined every brand on the market, but the one -- and currently only -- brand I can confidently recommend is Carlson’s.
For several months now, I intended to offer Carlson’s on this site because of its high quality and the proof of its effectiveness over time. However, as I also recommend the fish oil in liquid form versus capsules, my efforts to offer it to you were held up: until recently, the availability of the Carlson’s fish oil in liquid form was scarce. Through our efforts over the last several months, however, we have worked out a distribution agreement with a reputable source, and so I am happy to announce that we are finally offering the Carlson’s.
The primary reason I recommend the fish oil in liquid form over capsule form is because the liquid is much easier to consume. Most adults need about one tablespoon of the liquid, which is the equivalent of 15 capsules! Patients find that swallowing the liquid, or using it as a salad dressing, is much simpler than swallowing 15 pills.
To conclude, please make sure that whatever fish oil you are taking is of the highest quality. Carlson’s fish oil and cod liver oil do cost more than some other brands, but my experience here at the clinic is that it’s well worth it. Again, we now offer the Carlson’s, or it is likely you can find it at some local health food stores.