Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements May Not Offer Heart Benefits After AllFeatured Article
Main Category: Cardiovascular / Cardiology
Also Included In: Nutrition / Diet
Article Date: 12 Sep 2012 - 4:00 PDT
Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements May Not Offer Heart Benefits After All
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However, in their attempt to clarify the recent controversy surrounding the use of omega-3 supplements, the authors do not rule out the possibility that certain groups may benefit, and call for future studies to look more closely at this.
Evangelos Rizos, of the University Hospital of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece, and colleagues write about their findings in the 12 September issue of JAMA.
Omega-3 PUFAs are considered essential for healthy development of the heart and other parts of the body, and food sources rich in these include nuts and seeds, and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. As supplements they are typically given in the form of fish oil.
Although it is not clear how they help the heart and circulation, there are suggestions omega-3 PUFAs lower triglyceride levels, prevent serious arrythmias, reduce the clumping of platelets, and lower blood pressure.
However, the authors write that:
"Considerable controversy exists regarding the association of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and major cardiovascular end points."
For years, omega 3 fish oils have been recommended by health organisations to help reduce heart disease. However, a review of recent studies has questioned this.
Regulatory authorities also appear to have different views. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of omega-3 PUFAs only for lowering triglycerides in patients with overt hypertriglyceridemia, while some, but not all, European regulators have approved them for reducing cardiovascular risk.
"The controversy stemming from the varying labeling indications causes confusion in everyday clinical practice about whether to use these agents for cardiovascular protection," write Rizos and colleagues.
Thus, in an attempt to clarify the situation, they carried out a large-scale statistical review of the available evidence from randomized controlled studies, looking at the link between omega-3 PUFAs and major cardiovascular outcomes such as stroke and heart attacks, and also premature death.
From a search of the well-known databases, they found 3,635 studies, from which 20 matched their criteria. These provided data for a pooled analysis on 68,680 randomized patients, and events that included 7,044 deaths, 3,993 cardiac deaths, 1,150 sudden deaths, 1,837 heart attacks, and 1,490 strokes.
Taking all the included supplement studies together, the researchers found no significant association between use of omega-3 PUFAs and all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack (MI), and stroke.
"... omega-3 PUFAs are not statistically significantly associated with major cardiovascular outcomes across various patient populations."
They suggest their findings "do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or guidelines supporting dietary omega-3 PUFA administration."
However, they also note that as scientists continue to do more randomized studies in this field, it would be useful to do some that look more closely at how these supplements might benefit individual risk groups, and use more refined measures such as dose, adherence and baseline intake.
In other words, while looking at all the evidence as a whole does not appear to support the idea that omega-3 PUFA supplements benefit the heart, this broad-brush picture could be missing details: there may be certain groups that do benefit, and this may also depend on factors such as the supplement dose and how long they take it for.
Other studies on fish oilsSome other recent individual studies, published in Medical News Today, have also concluded that fish oils do not appear to provide some of the benefits people had previously taken for granted. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements appears not to protect older people from cognitive decline.
In contrast, a study published on September 10th found that DHA intake may help improve reading and behavior in healthy but underperforming children. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid. You can look up other studies related to omega-3 fish oils in our archive.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today
Visitor Opinions (latest shown first)
Fish Oils And Algae Oilsposted by PaulC on 12 Sep 2012 at 8:40 am
Fish oil is often contaminated with mercury, PCB's and dioxins which may negate their benefit. Molecularity distilled fish oil only removes the most volatile contaminants and requires that the omega-3 acids be first converted into an ethyl-ester form which is not particularly absorbable by the body. Algae n-3 oils, on the other hand are virtually free of contaminants and do not require molecular distillation. Perhaps the results of this meta-study would have been different had algae oil results been analyzed.
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Does It Work or Not?posted by T. Marks on 12 Sep 2012 at 5:29 am
This comment of frustration is NOT directed towards JAMA or the doctor(s) doing the fish-oil study.
I am SO TIRED of hearing on one day how supplements like fish oil, olive oil, red wine, caffeine, etc provide amazing health benefits; then the next thing I hear is that the supplements don't provide these benefits.
I have confidence study results from JAMA and some other professional organizations. As for the other pseudo-doctors and "medical/health" organizations who hap-hazardly publish their "scientific study results": should be prosecuted for perpetrating a hoax on the public.
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