Dietary Supplement: Fatty Acid Analysis

Adamson Laboratories’ Nutrient Lab routinely analyzes fatty acid from fish oil, CLA, saw palmetto, borage oil, etc. The most common method used on fatty acids is done by gas chromatography, where oils are extracted by hexane or heptane. These are subjected then to a Boron Trifluoride reaction in the presence of methanol, where the free fatty acid is converted into methyl ester fatty acid, which is analyzed by gas chromatography FID. This method is derived from the AOAC-USP method.
Some of the common essential fatty sources are:

  • Fish oil containing DHA, EPA, DPA
  • Saw palmetto; 70 to 85% fatty acid
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) found in meat and dairy products
  • Mono-saturated, polyunsatureated fatty acids from seeds and nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Evening primrose
  • Borage oil


Identification of different types of  USP, FCC, EP, or BP oils can be done by thin layer chromatography and the fingerprint of a few of the fatty acid compositions. Assays and quantitation of the dietary supplement, gas chromatography and methyl ester fatty acid distribution are required by European Pharmacopeia.

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