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Choosing the Best Fish Oil

Fish Oil Freezer Test

written by Vin Kutty

comments 19 comments

fish oil freezer test

fish oil at natural products expo west

Every year, I spend the second weekend of march at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California. It marks the arrival of spring. And I get to see people I’ve known for 20 plus years.

Hundreds of natural and organic foods manufacturers and supplement companies exhibit their products. If you can elbow you way past 50,000 attendees, you can taste all the new great stuff that the health food industry has in store for you.

‘Gluten-free’ appears to be the big new trend this year, as it was the year before. I’ll have more to say about gluten-free in a future blog.

But a tried-and-true marketing gimmick by a fish oil manufacturer annoyed me, so I want to share that with you here.

It’s called the fish oil freezer test.

Simply put, the marketing claim is: if you freeze your fish oil, and it becomes opaque, it’s bad fish oil.

On the surface, this test is made for infomercial TV – easy, simple and fun to demonstrate. Everyone can understand freezing and opaque vs. clear. No wonder marketers continue to use it and no wonder people fall for this gimmick.

As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, regular (retail grade) fish oil contains only 30% Omega-3. The other 70% is a mixture of various saturated and unsaturated fats. There is a lot of saturated fats in regular fish oil. And these saturated fats solidify when put in the freezer. Omega-3 fats do not freeze solid easily because they have extremely low freezing points.

Saturated Fats Solidify Easily

opaque fish oil pills
When the saturated fats solidify, it makes the pill look opaque like butter (right).

That’s neither good nor bad.

It’s not an indicator of quality.

It’s just an indicator of the Omega-3 content.

Low-Omega-3 fish oils will turn opaque in the freezer. High-Omega-3 fish oil pills won’t.

Simple as that.

This does not mean that the oil is low quality and it does not mean that it has mercury or other contaminants. It simply means that there is more saturated fats than Omega-3 fats in the opaque pills.

Now, if you took a Ultra-concentrated fish oil with 85% Omega-3, it is less likely to go opaque in the freezer because there is more Omega-3 and less saturated fats.

Omega-3 content in fish oils pill affect the result of the freezer test


I think the ‘freezer test’ marketing gimmick is misused by marketers to indicate quality and purity, as opposed to Omega-3 content. And THAT is my objection to this sales technique.

It connects dots that don’t exist.

A 90% Omega-3 fish oil product that is old, rancid and contaminated with mercury will pass the freezer test. It will look clear, crisp and beautiful after a night in the freezer.

But it will also make you sick.

As I was walking through the Natural Products Expo, I saw a prominent manufacturer’s sales rep use the old ‘freezer test’ pitch on an unsuspecting health food retail store buyer.
It sounded exactly like a TV infomercial pitch.

It took a lot of self-control for me to not step in and set the situation straight.

The words ‘interference of commerce’ popped into my head and so I kept walking.

Oh well. At least you know.


* 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.


Join the conversation

  1. Vin,
    Great posting. It is sad that there is such ignorance about basic chemistry as to allow this clownish tomfoolery to continue. Omega-6-to-Omega-3 imbalance is one of the most serious health issues plaguing America. In the end, we have to put our hopes in intelligent discussion and well-crafted education materials, not in stupid, incorrect, condescending faux-experiments that represent everything science isn’t.

    • Hi Daniel,

      The freezer show is just an opportunistic selling tactic. But it will show people that different fats freeze at different temps. DHA, for instance, will remain liquid until -58 degrees F.


  2. Great article, I appreciate your writing style and breakdown of how the freezing method works. When it comes to purchasing supplements, you really don’t know what’s in the capsules and have to trust the labels. It’s good to see people writing quality articles to help others make a healthy decision instead of trying to sell. Thanks!

    • Hi Sally – when you buy regular strength Omega-3, it usually contains between 20 and 30% Omega-3. The rest of the pill is Omega-6, Omega-9, saturated fats and other misc fats that solidify at refrigeration or freezer temps. That’s OK. That’s just basic science. When a fish oil pill turns solid white when frozen it DOES NOT mean there is no Omega-3 in it. It simply means there is more non-Omega-3 ingredients in the pill than there is Omega-3. So the freezer-test DOES NOT PROVE that there is no Omega-3 in it.

      Low potency fish oil contains, well, low levels of Omega-3 and sometimes that’s what people can afford. It is very expensive to concentrate fish oil to a degree that it no longer freezes solid. It is not a matter of purity. It is a matter of potency, which in turn is a matter of cost. Not everyone can afford pharmaceutical grade fish oil. That’s OK too. With low-potency fish oil (the kinds that freeze solid), you have to take 3 times as many pills to get the Omega-3 benefit you need.

      The gimmick part that I have a problem with is where people express fake outrage at saturated fats freezing at low temperatures. Saturated fats are SUPPOSED to freeze at low temperatures. This is exploiting people lack of chemistry knowledge for personal gain. And telling consumers that pills that freeze solid have no Omega-3 in them is misleading and deceptive. These practices only add to the high level of confusion that people already feel about Omega-3, nutrition and health in general.

      – Vin Kutty

      • Thanks for the explanation. It is good information. But I feel sad that an expert like you can agree to the following:
        1) It is alright for customers to buy Products labelled as Omega 3 but get a mixture of Omega 6 & 9 with a small portion of Omega 3;
        2) It is not a quality issue for a product not containing what it makes its customers to believe its content;
        3) Customers are not deserved to get what they expected because they don’t pay enough money.

        My question is why can’t these companies sell products with Omega 3 only with same price or don’t label their products as Omega 3?

        • Hi Francis – it is not alright for people to buy an ‘Omega-3’ product and get mostly Omega-6 & 9 instead. Where did you see me agreeing to something like that? If there is one message on this website that I repeat, that is to reduce Omega-6.

          Please explain.

  3. Mr Kutty, is of course correct, in that freezer test does not necessarily indicate NO Omega 3, nor does it help demonstrate rancidity etc. However he seems to undervalue an important point for those of us who are simply trying to differentiate between capsules with lower percentage Omega 3 vs those with a high percentage. As the former likely have a higher percentage of saturated fats, they will freeze more easily, and this valid indication of concentration can be very useful.
    If one is paying for Super Concentrated Omega 3, and only getting regular 18/12 Omega 3 Fish oil, this test can certainly help.
    I am not in this industry, but if anyone knows of a more valid simple test of comparing concentration of very high vs regular/low Omega 3, it would be most welcome.

    • Hi Dr. Wells – you have a good point. I concede that if you are trying to separate the low-potency vs the high-potency fish oils, then the freezer test may be somewhat useful. The likelihood of paying for concentrated oil and getting low-grade oil is virtually zero in North America or Europe. The regulations are tight. And any caught infractions are very painful for the manufacturer. None of the manufacturers that I know (and I know a lot of them) would even consider duping customers like this. I make no promises about other parts of the world, where this kind of trickery occurs regularly.
      – Vin Kutty

  4. Hello,
    I bought an Ômega 3 and it was freezed when about 5 hours into the freezer. Could you tell me about? For me it is not good. It’s from Simply Supplements Omega 3 1000mg.. from My Protein yes is good.

    • Hi Juliane – as the article above states, freezing or not freezing makes no difference in the quality of the Omega-3 supplement. But if the oil freezers that usually means that there is less Omega-3 fats and more non-Omega-3 fats in the oil.

      • Hello, I did the Omega3 test , I left the the softgell capsule in the freezer overnight and it froze turn to a white pale color , I squeezed it with my finger and it was not soft but once I sliced with a knife it turned into it natural color yellow and oil came out of the capsule , what this means. ???

        • Hi Luis – this is normal. This does not mean much. This is a simple way to confirm Omega-3 concentration that you already know from reading the label.

          Regular fish oils with 30% Omega-3 (1000 ml capsule that contains 300 mg Omega-3, hence 30%), will contains some saturated fatty acids. This is normal. These saturated fats will freeze at refrigerator or freezer temperatures. Omega-3s like EPA and DHA do not freeze at these temperatures, which means fish oil capsules that are highly concentrated (like OmegaVia that contains mostly EPA and DHA and very little else) will not become white and solid in the freezer. Lower concentration oils will freeze because Omega-3 is mixed in with saturated fats. That is all. Low concentration products will freeze. This is not bad. This is what fish oil is supposed to do. Basic chemistry and physics.

          The freezer test does not tell you ANYTHING about the purity or rancidity of the oil. If a product has high mercury or if it is rancid from exposure to oxygen, you will not be able to tell from a freezer test. For that, you need to go to IFOS Consumer Reports – they test products and display results that are otherwise private.

  5. Hold on there, Ellen. We’ve known for a few decades now that saturated fats don’t directly cause heart attacks. So that’s not the real problem with regular fish oils. The problem is that you get very little Omega-3. Most 1000 mg fish oil pills have 300 mg of Omega-3. You’d have to take 10 of those to get an efficacious dose. Also, talk to your doctor about Vitamin K2 – this is the vitamin that tells your body what to do with calcium. Why am I bringing up calcium? Because plaque is mostly calcium. Vitamin K2 puts calcium in your bones and not your arteries. Not having enough Vitamin K2 and magnesium is linked to increased calcium blockage in arteries. Healthy arteries should be like fully cooked spaghetti…the ones with calcium blockage are like skinny concrete sticks. More here:

    Whether Big Pharma is out to make money or nor is irrelevant (they are), but you still need Omega-3 if you’ve had open heart surgery. Doesn’t have to be OmegaVia, just any good brand.

  6. I use Nutrigold fish oil . They Do NOT turn cloudy in my fridge. Every other brand I’ve tried turned cloudy. Someone wanna explain that to me ???

    • Hi Oren – as the article above says, the cloudiness after cold storage is merely a measure of saturated fatty acids in the oil. This is neither good nor bad. I like Nutrigold products. It simply means that your product has very level of fats that solidify in cool temps. Measure your Omega-3 products based on milligrams of Omega-3 per pill, purity from mercury, heavy metals, and environmental contamination, and rancidity or freshness levels. These things are not listed on product labels, so you have to look up 3rd party testing websites like, or our favorite, IFOS Consumer Report because the certificate of analysis is freely open for everyone to see.

  7. Hello Vin,
    GREAT info. Can you recommend a brand in Canada that has a really high potency of fish oil.
    As a type 2 diabetic I am told that fish oil – omega will really help so I need an exceptionally good tablet….And perhaps any other vitimans or supplements that can help with diabetes.
    Thanks so much.

    • Hi Audrey – Omega-3 is not the solution to diabetes or insulin resistance. There is some minor evidence that it may help, but if you want to truly improve diabetes, eliminate sugar, juices, flour, and processed foods from your diet. Aim for a very high fiber (mostly vegetables) and high olive oil diet, with some seafood, eggs, and a hint of meat. Eat all your calories in a 6-8 hour window…start by narrowing your eating window by half hour a day to see if you have any hypoglycemia issues. If your diet is high in fiber and healthy fats, you should not have issues as time goes by. Now add high intensity exercise and you’ll beat back blood sugar issues. Of course, work with your doctor and a dietitian in doing all this.

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