A massive review recently published in the Journal of American Medical Association has found that fish oil supplements do not actually lower your risk of stroke or heart disease. Millions of Americans currently take these supplements for a range of supposed health benefits, so this news is a major blow to people who believe they are helping to promote heart health by taking a daily pill.
This study reviewed 20 separate clinical trials over 24 years with nearly 70,000 participants, showing that this determination actually carries a lot of weight. Most of the participants in these studies were of European descent and consumed, on average, 1.5g of the supplements per day for 2 years on average.
Fish oil supplements are one of the best-selling supplements on the market with sales over $1 billion in the United States alone. The idea behind taking these pills actually began with studies that took place over 20 years ago showing cultures that eat diets high in fish rich in omega-3’s (salmon and sardines, for example) have lower rates of heart disease.
A number of studies have been performed since then, some of which show benefits while some offer results that aren’t so clear-cut.
An author of this meta-analysis, Moses Elisaf, explained that recommending fish oil supplements can be very confusing as it isn’t clear they offer any heart protection. The researchers also concluded that taking these daily supplements is basically useless if you’re expecting to fight off heart disease and a healthy diet is still be best option.
According to GOED, a group that represents firms that produce and sell omega-3 fatty acid supplements, this study is misleading because it takes into account participants who had suffered from strokes or heart disease. The group also points out that this meta-analysis did not look at any possible effects from cardiovascular drugs the participants may have taken. The response from the authors of this study was they had no financial conflicts of interest involved in their analysis.
If you’re currently taking fish oil supplements for your health, your time may be better spent focusing on a healthy diet along with exercise. The American Heart Association recommends consuming a diet that includes fresh fish twice a week along with vegetables and whole grains. While they currently recommend people with heart disease take 1g of fish oil per day, they do state that it’s preferable for omega-3 fatty acids to come from diet, rather than a supplement.