In the most in depth analysis of omega-3 fatty acids to date, a group of researchers from Cochrane recently found that the compound may not actually have a positive effect on cardiovascular health. This heavily contrasts the public opinion on omega-3 fats, being that fish oil pills (rich in omega-3 fats) are one of the most popular supplements in the U.S. and is often associated with lowering risk for cardiovascular disease.
Analyzing 112,059 patients from 79 controlled trials, the researchers found that the chances of omega-3 supplements yielding any significant benefit is 1 in 1,000. Rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, arrhythmia, and mortality all showed no significant decrease in relation to omega-3 supplementation.
It is important to note that the team analyzed only data on omega-3 supplements, and that eating oily fish is still a suggested component of a healthy diet. This study provides no support for using fish oil supplements in the place of eating fish. The two omega-3 fats sought after in fish are EPA and DHA, both of which were found to have little effect on cardiovascular health in this study. The researchers did find that ALA, an omega-3 fat found in certain seed and nut oils, did provide some cardiovascular benefits however these benefits were very miniscule.
“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” – Dr. Lee Hooper
Fish oil pills have gained immense popularity in the past decade, with nearly 8 million more Americans using fish oil supplements in 2012 than did in 2007 and roughly $1.2 billion spent each year on the supplements. Given the findings of this Cochrane study, this billion dollar industry may be built on false hope.