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
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 pharmaceutical grade fish oil with 75% Omega-3, it is less likely to go opaque in the freezer because there is more Omega-3 and less saturated fats.
And if you took prescription Lovaza and threw it in the freezer, it is unlikely to go opaque because it has about 85% Omega-3. And that means there is very little saturated fats in Lovaza. At $1 a pill, you hope it is mostly Omega-3!
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.
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About the Author: Vin Kutty, MS, is co-founder of Innovix Pharma. He is a nutritionist, author, and Omega-3 expert with 20 years of experience.