Are ‘Pharmaceutical Grade’ Fish Oils just a gimmick?
Recently, Dr. Mehmet Oz’ show featured a segment on fish oil.
In the segment, guest, Dr. Tod Cooperman of ConsumerLab.com, discussed various dietary supplements.
In this bit, Dr. Cooperman mentioned that ‘Pharmaceutical grade Fish Oil‘ was a marketing gimmick and that such a thing does not exist.
Is there any truth to this?
Dr. Cooperman is half right.
He’s right that there is no formal FDA definition of ‘Pharmaceutical grade fish oil‘, and that it is a term coined by fish oil manufacturers.
But a gimmick, it’s not!
The fish oil was Anchovy oil with about 20 to 25% Omega-3. At the time, this was amazing progress.
25% Omega-3? Wow! Fantastic!
With those pills, a 1000 mg fish oil pill would give you about 250 mg of Omega-3.
I recall when a scientist friend of mine sat me down and said, ‘You realize that you have to take almost a dozen of those to get any benefit, right?’
I was stunned for a moment.
And then I realized that she was right. So I increased my dosage from one pill per day to 4 or 5. There’s no way I was going to take a dozen a day! I’d go broke! And smell like a fisherman!
So till about the turn of the century, 25% Omega-3 was about all we had.
We didn’t know any better.
Enter Super Omega!
This was a newer, more potent oil with as much as 50% Omega-3.
50% Omega-3? Wow! Fantastic!
All was well. We didn’t know any better.
Then came 60% Omega-3. Whoa! Let’s not get crazy there, fella!
By this time, health food stores were selling a ton of these new oils. But nobody knew what to call them. Certainly these new oils were much better than the old ones.
It was not your father’s Oldsmobile.
Then, the famous Dr. Barry Sears coined the term ‘Pharmaceutical grade fish oil‘ about 20 years ago to help distinguish this new double-strength fish oil from the lowly 25% stuff.
He was fully justified. After all, the same pill had twice the Omega-3 goodies.
Pharmaceutical grade. It had a nice ring to it. So it stuck.
So is calling it ‘pharmaceutical grade’ a gimmick?
Here’s what Pharmaceutical Grade means:
- It means fewer pills.
- It means twice or three times the amount of Omega-3.
- It means less of the other stuff that’s not Omega-3.
- It means feeling the benefits you’re supposed to.*
We don’t call OmegaVia Pharmaceutical Grade any more, but if other brands do, you now know what it means.
So some call it Pharmaceutical grade. We call it Ultra-concentrated.
People who read and understand the supplement facts on a fish oil label ‘get it’.
Call it a marketing gimmick if it makes you happy.
And that’s just fine by me.
COUNTER POINT: A gimmick in plain sight?
Here’s an example of a label I saw at Albertsons this afternoon:
It says PHARMACEUTICAL GRADE in red, all-cap letters.
Here’s the front of the label.
And here is the back of the label.
This 1200 mg pill has 360 mg of Omega-3. So this fish oil contains only 30% Omega-3.
It’s not 50%, 60%, let alone 85%.
In this case, Dr. Tod Cooperman is right. This one looks like a gimmick.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.