Unnecessary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids

I find many people taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements with the hope that it will “prevent heart disease”. Unfortunately the evidence shows otherwise.
A meta-analysis published in the September 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association failed to identify a link between supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids and a reduction in the risk of death or major cardiovascular events.
Evangelos Rizos and colleagues analyzed 20 randomized controlled trials including 68,680 patients and found no significant effect on any of the endpoints:

  • all-cause mortality: relative risk (RR) 0.96, CI 0.91 – 1.02
  • cardiac death: RR 0.91, CI 0.85 – 0.98 (not significant after correction for multiple comparisons)
  • sudden death: RR 0.87, CI 0.75 – 1.01
  • MI: RR 0.89, CI 0.76 – 1.04
  • stroke: RR 1.05, CI 0.93 – 1.18

The authors reported that they found no evidence supporting a beneficial effect related to either lowering triglycerides or reducing sudden death. Regarding triglycerides, they wrote, “the proposed protective role of omega-3 PUFAs by lowering triglyceride levels is not supported by our study, because our findings do not support an advantage of higher (triglyceride-lowering) doses compared with lower doses of omega-3.” Furthermore, no benefit was found in preventing sudden death, “thus rejecting a distinct antiarrhythmic mediated omega-3 PUFA effect,” though the authors acknowledged that the evidence was “underpowered to detect a small underlying effect.”

The current recommendation is to take fish rather than omega-3 fatty acid supplments. The AHA dietray recommendation includes:
• A recommendation to eat fish, particularly fatty fish, at least twice a week
• A recommendation that keep servings of fish to about 3.5 oz cooked

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be considered if one is a heart patient but otherwise you are probably wasting your money.

Also posted in the MMR Forums Health tips section


Malaysian physician, haematologist, blogger, web and tech enthusiast