How Beneficial Are Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements?
Omega-3 fish oil supplements have received great press coverage over the last decade or so. Industry sales total $1.1 billion annually, thanks in no small part to the alleged benefits these supplements provide. Specifically, it is believed omega-3 fish oil has the ability to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce triglycerides
- Slow the development of plaques in the arteries
- Reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm
- Reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke
- Lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease
However, study findings published throughout 2012 have clearly indicated that omega-3 fish oil may not be as beneficial as previously believed. In one of these studies, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine determined that omega-3 supplementation had little to no effect on standardized test performance. Said one of the authors of the study, "The results of the available studies show no benefit for cognitive function with [omega-3] supplementation among cognitively healthy older people.” However, they did add that more comprehensive researcher is needed to conclude whether or not there are any preventative benefits.
Another massive study of 70,000 people determined that regular supplementation of omega-3 fatty acid supplements didn't reduce a person’s mortality rate. The study, which was conducted in Greece, looked at 20 intense trials involving omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Researchers came to the conclusion that there was no "statistically significant risk reduction" when it came to heart attack or stroke. “Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or through dietary supplementation,” said an unnamed author of the study.
Supplements or Diet?
Many researchers are currently wondering if food sources of omega-3 are more beneficial than supplements, but many health care providers continue to champion the latter. The American Heart Association suggest making fatty fish a dietary staple to the tune of at least two servings a week. Fatty fish has numerous cardiovascular health benefits, but, if fish isn't really your thing, discuss the possibility of switching to a dietary supplement to increase your intake of omega-3.
David L. Katz, MD, remains “convinced of the health benefits of omega-3 fats across an array of conditions, likely including cardiovascular health.” He goes on to say that the nutrients found in omega-3's are an "essential" part of our diet and that most Americans are "deficient" in them. The imbalance caused by this deficiency is a leading cause of inflammation, which is a major contributor to major diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heard disease.
In light of the contentious debate over the benefits of omega-3, it seems as though your best bet is to confer with your physician to determine the best course of action.