Despite recent published reports suggesting that omega-3 supplements lack the cardiovascular health benefits they once claimed and could be associated with various health risks, many people continue to use them. According to the 2014 ConsumerLab.com survey of 10,000 supplement users, fish/marine oil supplements still were popular, with 67.2% of respondents using them.
This consumption may not be bad. Research on omega-3s suggests that these supplements may be useful and even necessary for people with very high triglyceride levels, pregnant and nursing women, and individuals who have difficulty eating oily fish twice per week.
Previous clinical trials of fish oil supplements often have associated omega-3 supplementation with heart health benefits. The GISSI Prevenzione study, for example, published in the August 1999 issue of the Lancet, followed 1,324 patients and found that the group who received a 1-g dose of an omega-3 supplement each day for 3 1/2 years significantly reduced the risk of death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and nonfatal stroke among those who had survived a recent myocardial infarction.1 Fast-forward to a 2013 study involving more than 12,000 patients at high risk of a heart attack who were randomized to receive either 1,000 mg of fish oil per day or a placebo.2 After five years, there was no reduction in cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.
A meta-analysis of 20 studies published in the September 2012 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association supports a similar conclusion. Patients who received an average dose of 1.51 g of omega-3 supplements per day for a median treatment duration of two years didn’t experience a lower risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, cardiac death, sudden death, or all-cause mortality.3 However, Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, points out that the other research did find that omega-3s lowered the risk of cardiac death by 10%.
From the March 2014 issue, Vol. 16 No. 3 P. 52; written by Linda Antinoro, JD, RD, LDN, CDE. Reprinted with permission.