Fish Oil Pills, Good for the Heart? Not in This Life

Omega-3 supplements fall short in major scientific review
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2018 5:00 PM CDT
Fish oil supplements are seen in this file photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Want to prevent heart disease? Those fish oil supplements may not be worth the money after all, the BBC reports. A review of roughly 112,000 people across 79 trials found that people using supplements of omega-3—a fat that's prominent fish oils like cod liver oil—experienced little to no benefit over a year or more. Conducted by researchers at the University of East Anglia, the review analyzed people from Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America; most were given omega-3 supplements and compared to those who took a dummy pill, per a press release. In the end, supplement-takers had an 8.8% chance of death compared to 9% in the control group, with little to no difference in heart-health events like stroke, heart irregularities, and coronary heart disease.

"We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega 3 supplements protect the heart," says lead author Lee Hooper. "Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects." That said, those who ingested more of an omega-3 acid called ALA (found in walnuts and plant oils like canola and grapeseed) had a slight chance of reducing heart irregularities. But overall it's better to eat oily fish like salmon or herring, Business Insider reports—because then "you're also getting a protein source that replaces something else in your diet like saturated fat, and seafood has selenium, iron and vitamin D," says Hooper. "All of these are useful nutrients." Seems fish oils have been falsely praised since a bad English study of school children over 10 years ago, per an old Guardian article.

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