Fish oil capsules. (Photo: Stock File)
Do fish oil supplements pose health benefits?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 05:10 (GMT + 9)
Several new studies released over the past few months conclude that omega-3 fish oil supplements are not as beneficial as we have been led to believe.
In mid-September 2012, a study analyzed the benefits of fish oil supplements in patients with heart disease and determined that “fish oil capsules did not appear to lower any of the study volunteers’ chances of a heart attack or stroke.”
The team also concluded that “overall, omega-3 supplementation was not associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, myocardial infarction or stroke,” Journal of the American Medical Association reports.
This week, a new study monitoring the health of heart surgery patients who took fish oil supplements before and after having a heart procedure has been released. The researchers found that “taking the supplements didn’t seem to help patients heal better,” as the total number of days in the intensive care unit or coronary care unit were about the same for participants in both groups.
US investigators randomly assigned 1,516 patients scheduled for cardiac surgery in the US, Italy and Argentina to take 1g-capsules of omega-3 fatty acids or a placebo of olive oil before and after their procedure. Participants ingested fish oil capsules containing at least 840mg of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), a prescription-strength, CBC News reports.
This particular study sought to help lower post-operative atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat often experienced by patients undergoing cardiac surgery.
“Our findings provide no evidence that short-term omega-3 [polyunsaturated fatty acids] supplementation provides clinically relevant antiarrhythmic effects in the acute setting of cardiac surgery,” Dr Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and his co-authors concluded in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Instead of taking supplements, doctors suggest that people eat proper foods, including oily fish -- salmon, trout and herring included -- at least a few times a week.
“It may be something else that's in the fish that's providing the benefits because fish have all sorts of minerals and other ingredients that are healthy," reasoned Dr Andreas Wielgosz, a cardiologist in Ottawa and a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "It may be that when you eat fish you eat less saturated foods. The exact answer isn't known but what we can say is natural source is better than supplements."
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