Omega-3 supplementation not so beneficial for heart health

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It has long been suggested that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with a decreased risk of numerous cardiovascular events, and previous studies have suggested that, if obtained from dietary sources, these fatty acids may indeed have some beneficial effects.

However, a new meta-analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finds that getting these fatty acids from supplements may not be so effective. Researchers from the University Hospital of Ioannina in Greece looked at 20 studies, involving nearly 70,000 patients, and found that supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids was not associated with any statistically significant difference in all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack, or stroke.

Although omega-3s have been approved by the FDA as triglyceride-lowering agents in patients with hypertriglyceridemia, the study authors conclude that, based on their findings, omega-3 should not be used as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice.

ACSH's Dr. Josh Bloom finds the latest research pretty convincing evidence that omega-3 supplements offer no cardiovascular protection. This study looked at five different adverse cardiovascular outcomes, he notes. It s a thorough analysis, and the conclusion suggests that the people in previous studies who do get some benefits from a dietary source of omega-3s may just be eating more healthfully in general: fish instead of, say, a burger.

These fatty acids are available from fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, and this study indeed indicates that this is the best way to obtain them, agrees ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava.