I’ve been hopeful about the potential health benefits of fish oil since the late 90’s when researchers proposed that omega-3 fatty acids reduced inflammation. Our cells are covered in a lipid bilayer that contains a compliment of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and a higher percentage of omega-3 fatty acids has the potential to decrease inflammatory reactions at the microscopic level. Unfortunately, the clinical significance of having a greater ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6’s on your cell membranes, remains unclear.
In the largest meta-analysis to date (from JAMA Cardiology, January 31, 2018), over 77 thousand patients (in 10 different trials) at high risk for heart attacks and cardiac death were monitored. Those who took fish oil supplements had no decrease in their rates of cardiac disease (or its complications) than those who did not take the capsules.
I think this analysis shuts the door on the belief that fish oil supplements can stave off heart disease. Far more effective are interventions such as: weight loss, healthy diet, regular exercise, quitting smoking and excessive alcohol use, and taking medicines as directed for high cholesterol or diabetes.
Now, remember that fish is an excellent source of healthy protein, and is a staple in the Mediterranean Diet, which has been shown to be one of the heart healthiest diets to follow. Eating fish on a regular basis (especially grilled or prepared without batter) is highly recommended.
However, if you’re enduring the “fishy burps” that come along with daily fish oil supplements as a means to keep your heart healthy, I’d say don’t bother.
Save the money you’re spending on fish oil (as much as $40/month), go for a nice walk to the grocery store and get yourself some fresh fish instead. Your heart (and your loved ones who have noticed your supplement breath) will thank you.
How to reduce your risk of heart attack:
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