Why Omega-3 Supplements May Not Be So Heart Healthy After All

In In The Press, Individual, Industry News by Matthew Tagg

Many people take Omega-3 fish oil supplements on a regular in the belief they help lower their risk of cardiovascular disease. But a new study has found it actually has little or no benefit for heart health or strokes.

Released by Cochrane, the meta-analysis (a study of studies) shows that one of the world’s most popular dietary supplements has “little or no effect” when it comes to reducing the risk of “cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, coronary heart disease events, stroke or heart irregularities”.

Omega-3 is a type of fat found in oily fish like herring, mackerel, tuna and salmon. It’s an essential component for good health and supplements that contain it have been widely promoted globally because Omega-3 fats reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

However, according to the Cochrane research, which analysed 79 randomised trials involving some 112,059 people, omega-3 fish oil supplements are no better than placebos at reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular problems. Indeed, the risk of death from any cause was 8.8% in those who had increased their intake of omega 3 fats, compared with 9% who hadn’t.

In fact, Cochrane says the chance of getting any benefits from omega-3 supplements is one in 1,000.

Speaking about the findings of the research, Cochrane lead author, Dr. Lee Hooper from the University of East Anglia in the UK, said: “We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega 3 supplements protect the heart. This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods.  Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects”.

But (and there’s always a but, right) it should be pointed out that omega-3 supplements do still play an important role for people who don’t eat oily fish and so don’t get enough omega-3 in their normal diets.

Omega-3 found to improve children’s behaviour

Meanwhile, just to add to the ambiguity surrounding omega-3, another study has concluded that it reduces disruptive and abusive behaviour in children.

Publishing their findings in the journal Aggressive Behaviour, researchers from the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell’s School of Criminology and Justice Studies, led by Dr. Jill Portnoy, said omega-3 fatty oil supplements reduce disruptive behaviour in children.

Furthermore, as a result, this has a positive effective on their parents. For example, the parents of better behaved children are less likely to argue with each other and engage in other types of verbal abuse.

Speaking about the findings of the research, Portnoy said: “This is a promising line of research because omega-3 fatty acids are thought to improve brain health in children and adults. There is more to be learned about the benefits, but if we can improve people’s brain health and behaviour in the process, that’s a really big plus”.

So while omega-3 fish oil supplements may do little or nothing to protect against cardiovascular disease, they could still have a positive impact on children’s behaviour. Furthermore, they are still a vital addition to the diets of people who do not get enough omega-3 naturally.

I have over 18 years experience in the Medical Insurance Industry, much of that spent working for Aviva Health in the Distribution team. I joined Premier Choice in 2015 and in that time I have been helping clients to develop the best possible approach to protecting their health. My understanding of how insurers work puts me in a strong position to negotiate the best solutions on behalf of our clients.