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Lipids. 1990 Sep;25(9):523-8.

Fatty acid content of marine oil capsules.

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  • 1Lipid Metabolism Laboratory, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111.


The use of dietary omega 3 fatty acid capsules has been associated with a decrease in plasma triglyceride levels. In addition, populations consuming diets rich in fish appear to have a decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5 omega 3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6 omega 3) are major fatty acids in fish oils. It is believed that fish oils exert their biologic effect through these fatty acids. Many individuals are currently taking fish oil capsules to lower lipids, increase bleeding time, and possibly decrease cardiovascular risk. These capsules also have been classified as food additives with less stringent controls on content. We assessed the fatty acid, cholesterol, and vitamin A and E content of eight commercially available capsules along with cod liver oil. The content of EPA was found to range from 8.7-26.4% (wt %) with a mean of 17.3% (82.4% of labeled content), and that of DHA from 8.9-17.4% with a mean of 11.5% (90.0% of labeled content) as assessed by capillary column gas-liquid chromatography. The mean content of the polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acids was 31.9%, and that of the omega 6 fatty acids was 1.4%. The content of saturated fatty acids was 32.0%, and that of monounsaturated fatty acids was 25.1%. Cholesterol content was low, with a range of 0.7-8.3 mg/g, the alpha-tocopherol range was 0.62-2.24 mg/g, and the range of retinyl esters was 0.4-298.4 micrograms/g. Cod liver oil had substantially more retinyl esters (2450.1 micrograms/g) than did fish oil capsules.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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