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For heart health, fish oil pills not the answer?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 06, 2012 at 8:57 PM

What do you guys make of this study?

"September 11, 2012

(Reuters) -Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as sardines and salmon and once touted as a way of staving off heart disease and stroke, don't help after all, according to a Greek study.

Based on a review and analysis of previous clinical trials including more than 68,000 participants, Greek researchers whose report appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association said the fatty acids have no impact on overall death rates, deaths from heart disease, or strokes and heart attacks.

This was true whether they were obtained from supplements such as pills, or from fish in the diet, said the researchers, led by Mosef Elisef at the University Hospital of Ioannina.

"Overall, omega-3...supplementation was not associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, myocardial infarction, or stroke based on relative and absolute measures of association," Elisef and his team wrote.

A decade ago, medical evidence suggested that boosting omega-3s, including the acids known as EPA and DHA, with food or supplements had a strong protective effect even though the mechanism wasn't understood.

Scientists cited improvements in levels of triglycerides - a type of fat in the blood - as well as blood pressure levels and heart rhythm disturbances.

But since then, the picture has grown clouded. Earlier this year, a group of Korean researchers found that omega-3 supplements had no effect on heart disease or death based on 20,000 participants in previous trials.

The current study pooled results of 18 clinical trials that assigned participants randomly to take either omega-3 supplements, or not. It also includes two trials in which people got dietary counseling to increase their consumption of omega-3 rich foods.

Because the trials in the Greek analysis went as far back as 1989, researchers also considered whether growing use of statins and other medications could explain why later studies failed to support the earlier findings. But Elisef and his team said that wasn't the case.

Because people who eat a lot of fish have been found to have less heart disease, researchers figured that perhaps putting the supposed "active ingredients" in a pill could provide similar benefits, said Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston.

"What we have learned over the years is you can't think about individual nutrients in isolation," she added.

People who eat fish often may be replacing things like steak, hamburgers or quiche, making for a healthier diet.

Instead of supplements, Lichtenstein recommended eating fish at least twice a week, having a diet rich in whole grains and vegetables, getting lots of physical activity, and not smoking."

Medium avatar

(10611)

on November 07, 2012
at 02:03 AM

You can only eat so much. If oily fish replaces pancakes, heart health is improved compared to eating fish oil capsules with pancakes. The magic is in the fish not the fish extract.

53e11ae0f9f4c2867f840e9bbbdf3c29

(25)

on November 06, 2012
at 10:44 PM

sorry i missed that one, thanks for the link

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4 Answers

3
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on November 06, 2012
at 11:50 PM

"What we have learned over the years is you can't think about individual nutrients in isolation,"

She hit the nail on the head here. Nothing else need be said.

2
A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on November 06, 2012
at 09:56 PM

This study was discussed here a while back:

http://paleohacks.com/questions/149804/omega-3-pufa-supplementation-not-associated-with-lower-risk-of-all-cause-mortalit/149886#149886

I had some problems with the inclusion criteria, but my take away was that fish oil isn't magic. You can look at the meta analysis and see an implied benefit from fish oil, but the effect was too small to result in statistical significance.

To answer the question you posed in the title: I don't think fish oil pills are themselves the answer for heart health, but for they can still be part of the answer.

53e11ae0f9f4c2867f840e9bbbdf3c29

(25)

on November 06, 2012
at 10:44 PM

sorry i missed that one, thanks for the link

0
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on November 08, 2012
at 10:38 PM

What do we know about the fish oil? Was it oxidized? Was it fresh? If oxidized, the stuff is worse than useless, it's actually harmful.

In what quantities? In small amounts, it would have very little effect.

Did the diet include n6 PUFAs, did it include alcohol, or high quantities of fructose? (Both can react with omega 3's to start the path towards cancer.)

0
75b3b900d09e555fc57b74ca24f7a76a

on November 07, 2012
at 12:46 PM

I agree with what others have posted about the whole diet needing to be taken into consideration, but with that said, fish oil helps tremendously with my inflammation issues. So maybe it can't be relied upon to single-handedly prevent heart disease...It is still a powerful supplement that can have very valuable effects on certain health issues. I don't want to rely on it forever, but as I heal my gut and get my body systems in order, fish oil supplements (as well as managing my food sources of fat) is holding back the very uncomfortable level of inflammation that I would otherwise have.

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