Fish oil is America’s most popular nutritional supplement. About 19 million of us take it in hopes of staving off heart disease and other serious conditions.
But the science behind it has always been controversial. Some studies show it works. Others don’t.
The confusion extends to doctors. Some enthusiastically recommend fish oil. Others tell patients it’s a waste of money.
A mega-study attempted to settle the issue once and for all.
Researchers analyzed randomized, controlled trials that included nearly 72,000 people. All the trials lasted longer than six months.
These high-quality studies compared frequencies of heart death between those who consume EPA and DHA omega-3s from fish oil and control groups who didn’t take it. The review is the most comprehensive scientific examination ever of fish oil’s effect on the heart.
The data clearly show that fish oil significantly reduces the outcome everyone wants to avoid: cardiac death.
In the United States, heart disease has long been the number-one cause of mortality. Every year it kills some 600,000 Americans. That’s one in every four deaths.
Overall, the researchers found that fish-oil cuts the risk of cardiac death by an average of 8%. That may not sound like much, but it means fish oil has the potential to save about 48,000 American lives a year.
And the review showed that fish oil has a dramatically higher effect in certain groups. Among statin users, for example, fish oil consumption reduced the risk of cardiac death by 13%.
In people with elevated LDL “bad” cholesterol or triglycerides, fish oil offered even more protection: a 17% reduced risk.
Fish Oil: The Right Dosage
The study found that dosage is important. The people who got the most benefit took at least 1 gram a day of EPA and DHA. This reduced their heart death risk by 30%.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the two primary fatty acids in fish oil.
Dr. Kevin Maki is chief scientist for the Midwest Biomedical Research Center for Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health. He is the lead review author.
He notes that fish oil has one huge advantage over statins and other heart drugs…there’s almost no chance it will hurt you more than help you.
“One notable feature of EPA and DHA omega-3 supplementation is the low risk associated with its use,” Dr. Maki said. “Because of the low risk for adverse effects, even a modest benefit is clinically meaningful.”
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology.
It did not look at the benefits of getting EPA and DHA from fish instead of a supplement. That’s because no randomized, controlled trials exist. But many observational studies on fish eating show it does boost heart health.
The best choices are oily, cold-water species such as wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Avoid species that are high in mercury. It’s a potent neurotoxin.
Fish that tend to have high levels of it include swordfish, shark, marlin, orange roughy, and Gulf tilefish.
If you don’t like fish, other foods that contain omega-3s include nuts, seeds, avocados, organic eggs, and olive oil. Grass-fed beef is another quality source.
A fish oil supplement may be the most reliable way to make sure you get enough omega-3s.
Skip the ones at the drug store. They often have impurities such as mercury and other toxins. Instead, look for a quality supplement at your local health food store or online.
The FDA says up to 3 grams per day of fish oil is safe. The European Food Safety Authority reports no safety issues with up to 5 grams per day.
It’s settled science…
Fish oil is good for your heart.
Editor’s Note: Research shows the standard heart disease treatments—stents and statin drugs—don’t prevent heart attacks. Discover what does by reading our monthly journal Independent Healing. It’s your best source for reliable, unbiased health information. For more information, go HERE.