Document Type

Journal Article


School of Chinese Medicine




Background: Fish oil is a popular nutritional product consumed in Hong Kong. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two main bioactive components responsible for the health benefits of fish oil. Market survey in Hong Kong demonstrated that various fish oil capsules with different origins and prices are sold simultaneously. However, these capsules are labelled with same ingredient levels, namely EPA 180 mg/g and DHA 120 mg/g. This situation makes the consumers very confused. To evaluate the quality of various fish oil capsules, a comparative analysis of the contents of EPA and DHA in fish oil is crucial. Methods: A gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method was developed for identification and determination of EPA and DHA in fish oil capsules. A comprehensive validation of the developed method was conducted. Ten batches of fish oil capsules samples purchased from drugstores of Hong Kong were analyzed by using the developed method. Results: The present method presented good sensitivity, precision and accuracy. The limits of detection (LOD) for EPA and DHA were 0.08 ng and 0.21 ng, respectively. The relative standard deviation (RSD) values of EPA and DHA for repeatability tests were both less than 1.05%; and the recovery for accuracy test of EPA and DHA were 100.50% and 103.83%, respectively. In ten fish oil samples, the contents of EPA ranged from 39.52 mg/g to 509.16 mg/g, and the contents of DHA ranged from 35.14 mg/g to 645.70 mg/g. Conclusion: The present method is suitable for the quantitative analysis of EPA and DHA in fish oil capsules. There is a significant variation in the contents of the quantified components in fish oil samples, and there is not a linear relationship between price and contents of EPA and DHA. Strict supervision of the labelling of the fish oil capsules is urgently needed.


Comparative analysis, DHA, EPA, Fish oil, GC-MS

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Source Publication Title

Lipids in Health and Disease



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BioMed Central

Peer Reviewed



© Yi et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2014. This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited.


This work was financially supported by the National Science Fund (no.31060055) of the People’s Republic of China.



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JA-5173-27888_suppl.docx (65 kB)