Carlson Labs is an American company that has been established in the 1960s. They are family-run and first started selling cod liver oil in the 1980s. The cod liver oil is made in Norway and imported into the United States.
Carlson Labs have a vast array of cod liver oil products. Their most popular is their cod liver oil liquid and Elite Omega-3 Gems capsules. As in most cases, their liquid product is more economical to buy at ~$1 per 5ml serving. The capsules or ‘gems’ come to ~$0.72 per 2.5g serving.
There is a significant difference between the oil in the capsules and the liquid product. The capsules contain fish oil in ethyl-ester form, whereas the liquid is pure cod liver oil in the triglyceride form. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily illustrate a variation in quality, it does show that brands will vary what they put in their product.
Due to the variation of Carlson Labs products, we will discuss and review both the liquid and the capsules.
Carlson Labs are very transparent about the form of the fats in their oil. In the last section of each label, it states reported as ethyl ester, or triglycerides, which is quite unusual for manufacturers to do.
Carlson Labs Omega-3 Gems
The omega-3 fatty acids in the capsules are concentrated and standardised. This is evident from the conveniently round numbers of the various omega-3 fats. The capsules are large, providing 2.5g of fish oil with just 2 capsules. The combination of the large capsules and concentrated omega-3s results in quite a large dosage per serving – 2.5g of omega-3 per 2 capsules. 800mg being EPA, 600 DHA and the remaining 200mg being various lesser-known omega-3s. This is a very clinically significant dosage. Most research indicates that 250mg + of EPA is enough to have a benefit on your health, and these capsules over double that value. It is therefore quite reasonable to just take one capsule.
Carlson Labs Liquid
Despite one teaspoon of the liquid product providing nearly twice as much cod liver oil per serving that the capsules provide, it actually contains fewer omega-3 fatty acids. However, the amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are still very significant.
Carlson Labs Omega-3 Gems
Interestingly, Carlson Labs omega-3 gems do not contain any vitamin D or vitamin A. They do have some vitamin E added to the oil, which is primarily added to stabilise the oil rather than offer any health benefits. As such, the capsules are solely an omega-3 supplement rather than a typical cod liver oil. Cod liver oil is naturally high in vitamin A and D, but these have been removed and the oil has been concentrated. The lack of important vitamins could perhaps be overlooked by some customers as Carlson Labs is known for its cod liver oil supplements. However, in their defense, the bottle doesn’t make any claims about being a cod liver oil supplement. Carlson Labs do offer cod liver oil in a capsule, which does contain vitamins, and has a nutritional value similar to that of the liquid product.
Carlson Labs Liquid
Like all cod liver oils, the liquid product contains significant amounts of both vitamin D and vitamin A. Both vitamins are a mixture of the naturally occurring vitamins found in the oil and synthetic vitamins. Despite being fortified, the vitamin levels are quite low. They are still clinically significant, but they are lower than other cod liver oils.
Carlson Labs subscribe to the IFOS third-party testing program which tests for quality and purity. As such, you can be confident that their products meet strict controls for contaminants in cod liver oils and fish oils.
The cod used in their products comes from Norway, which adheres to strict fishing quotas for cod fishing to keep the industry sustainable. They also have a number of products that use fish oil from various species of fish which alleviates the burden on one specific species. They hold a Friends of the Sea certification and are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and plastic packaging. As a whole, they are taking their environmental impact more seriously than other large brands and are actively trying to minimize their impact on the planet.
Carlson Labs covers all aspects of a cod liver oil and omega-3 supplements to a good standard. Their cod liver oil is a good balance of omega-3 fats, but their vitamin content is perhaps a bit lacking. Overall, we have a lot of confidence in Carlson Labs cod liver oil, both in terms of quality and safety.