Has the omega-3 fatty acids craze run its course?
A comprehensive meta-analysis, published in JAMA Cardiology, shows that fish oil supplements offer no protection against heart disease for high-risk patients and have no effect on the number of deaths from coronary heart disease, or the number of myocardial infarctions.
The study found the evidence for fish oil benefit was missing across all types of patients, including those with prior diabetes, high lipid levels, and statin use.
The study looked at 10 randomised trials, which together canvassed more than 77,000 people with a history of coronary heart disease.
The Heart Foundation and the American Heart Association are largely in favour of using omega-3 fatty acids for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. “However, the results of the present meta-analysis provide no support for the recommendations,” the authors said.
Thousands of Australians regularly take fish oil supplements for prevention of heart disease. But it appeared that they were wasting their money, Professor Rachel Huxley, an epidemiologist from La Trobe University, said.
“As with many vitamin supplements, popping a fish oil tablet is no substitute for eating healthily and living well.”
Fish oils were promoted as having magical properties, but sturdy scientific evidence was limited, Professor Craig Anderson, a neurologist and the executive director of The George Institute for Global Health, said.
However, taking fish oil at higher doses might help, Professor Barbara Meyer, a nutritionist from the University of Wollongong, said.
The meta-analysis only included two studies that used the “correct dose” of omega-3 (0.5 grams of docosahexaenoic acid per day), she said. Both of these studies showed a benefit from omega-3 for coronary heart disease.