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a fish oil capsule imageJuly 19 2018

Cochrane researchers have published research indicating that omega 3 supplements have “little or no effect” on the risk of heart disease, stroke or death.

Another paper on polyunsaturated fatty acids also found that increasing PUFA “probably makes little or no difference (neither benefit nor harm)” to the risk of death (moderate-quality evidence), and “may make little or no difference” to the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (low-quality evidence).

The omega-3 research combines the results of 79 randomised trials involving 112,059 people, with 25 studies assessed as “highly trustworthy because they were well designed and conducted.”

The Cochrane researchers found that “increasing long-chain omega 3 provides little if any benefit on most outcomes that they looked at. They found high certainty evidence that long-chain omega 3 fats had little or no meaningful effect on the risk of death from any cause. The risk of death from any cause was 8.8% in people who had increased their intake of omega 3 fats, compared with 9% in people in the control groups,” said Cochrane.

“They also found that taking more long-chain omega 3 fats (including EPA and DHA), primarily through supplements probably makes little or no difference to risk of cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, coronary heart disease events, stroke or heart irregularities.”

Commenting on the findings, Cochrane lead author, Dr. Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, 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.

“This systematic review did find moderate evidence that ALA, found in plant oils (such as rapeseed or canola oil) and nuts (particularly walnuts) may be slightly protective of some diseases of the heart and circulation. 

“However, the effect is very small; 143 people would need to increase their ALA intake to prevent one person developing arrhythmia. One thousand people would need to increase their ALA intake to prevent one person dying of coronary heart disease or experiencing a cardiovascular event.”

Links:
Cochrane announcement          
Cochrane Review Omega 3 summary     
AS Abdelhamid et al. ‘Omega-3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease’. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD003177.         
Cochrane PUFA announcement 
Scientific expert reaction to Cochrane Review on omega-3 fatty acids     

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