SEP 03, 2019 8:30 AM PDT

Somethings Fishy With Omega 3 Claims

WRITTEN BY: Abbie Arce

Each month nearly 20 million Americans turn to fish oil for heart disease prevention. Though it may sound healthy, this trend is troubling in the face of zero reliable evidence of their effectiveness.

Many people are entirely unaware of fish oil’s failure to provide any significant clinical benefits. This is because the myth of their usefulness is so widespread that people everywhere have come to believe it. The belief comes after decades of claims about the cardiovascular benefits these products provide.

Ideas about Omega-3’s are so widespread that many doctors who suggested their use to patients wrongly believed they are FDA approved over-the-counter products. When surveyed, 30% of pharmacists and 22% of physicians stated these products and prescription products were similar in contact and strength. This is simply not the case.

On July 9, 2019, a summary of the evidence concerning fish oils was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Just one of 24 supplements that were examined, omega-3 products were considered “low certainty “concerning their claims of protecting cardiovascular health. 

Part of the problem is labeling, which often suggests products provide some cardiovascular benefits. The supplements are not intended to treat any condition like heart attack or heart disease. Also, they are not reviewed by the FDA in ways similar to prescription drugs. This is because, as dietary supplements, they fall into a different FDA classification then prescription drugs.

Not only are these products unlikely to benefit cardiovascular health, researchers had additional concerns about these products. Some findings include variable content and unregulated purity, significant levels of saturated fat, and even rancid oil in the capsules tested.

This evidence provides more proof that even the most widely accepted claims need to have supporting evidence behind them. Without such evidence, they deserve to be regularly scrutinized by the medical community and the people it serves until reliable studies are conducted. 

The video above, from MDedge, highlights earlier findings that indicated that these products had no benefit for atrial fibrillation patients. Though evidence had just emergered that these products were not useful for patients with AFib, the past American Heart Association president still reccomemeded them for use. 

 

Sources: National Institutes of HealthAnnals of Internal MedicineMDedge

About the Author
Applied Sport and Exercise Science
Abbie is an AFAA certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with an interest in all things health-science. She has recently graduated with her BS in Applied Sport and Exercise Science from Barry University in Miami. Next, she intends to earn an MPH with a focus in Epidemiology.
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