Little benefit of fish oil supplementation for heart health

About half a century ago, scientists observed that the risk of heart disease was lower in people who consumed generous amounts of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. This cardioprotective effect associated with fatty fish consumption has since been attributed to fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids, which among others contain two essential components namely eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Ever since, the fish oil industry has been booming. A recent report by the Allied Market Research in fact had predicted that the global fish oil market would reach $2.63 billion by 2020.

Nonetheless, a series of large randomized controlled trials conducted over the past two decades aiming to investigate the effectiveness of fish oil in reducing the risk of fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease (CHD) as well as other subtypes cardiovascular disease, have shown little benefit of fish oil.

The Omega-3 Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration was established to conduct an individual participant data meta-analysis, where data from all previous large randomized clinical trials of omega-3 FA supplements for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, were pooled and analyzed using a pre-specified protocol. The study, which aimed to assess the associations between supplementation with omega-3 FAs and fatal CHD, nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, major vascular events, and all-cause mortality had recently demonstrated no significant benefits of fish oil in terms of heart health (Aung T et al.). The findings of this meta-analysis therefore do not support the current recommendations of the American Heart Association (AHA) on use of fish oil supplementation as a secondary preventive measure in people with a history of CHD (Siscovick DS et al).

Does this drive another nail into the coffin for fish oil supplements? Read more in JAMA

This article was written by Assoc Prof Nirmala

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