CONTEXT: The consumption of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids is advocated by the American Heart Association to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease.

However, fish contain environmental toxins such as mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and organochlorine pesticides, which may negate the beneficial cardiovascular effects of fish meals. Toxin levels vary depending on both the fish source and the specific toxin, and neither farm-raised nor wild fish are toxin free.

Fish oil supplements also prevent the progression of coronary artery disease and reduce cardiovascular mortality. However, only sparse data exist on the level of toxins in fish oil. In a previous study we showed that the amount of mercury in 5 over-the-counter brands of fish oil was negligible.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls and other organochlorines in 5 over-the-counter preparations of fish oil.

DESIGN: The contents of 5 commercial fish oil brands were sent for organochlorine analysis.

RESULTS: The levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and organochlorines were all below the detectable limit.

CONCLUSIONS: Fish oil supplements are more healthful than the consumption of fish high in organochlorines.

Fish oils provide the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids without the risk of toxicity.

In addition, fish oil supplements have been helpful in a variety of diseases, including bipolar disorder and depression.