Omega-3 Supplements Don’t Protect Against Heart Disease

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Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, the oils abundant in fatty fish, are ineffective for the prevention of heart disease, a large review of randomized trials has found.

The analysis, in JAMA Cardiology, pooled data from 10 randomized trials in people who had had cardiovascular disease or were at high risk for it. There were 77,917 people in the trials, 61 percent men, and their average age was 64. Studies lasted, on average, 4.4 years, and the dose of omega-3’s ranged from 226 to 1,800 milligrams a day.

No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no association of the supplements with lowered risk for death from heart disease, or with nonfatal heart attacks or other major cardiovascular events.

There was no effect in people with prior coronary heart disease, those with diabetes, people with high lipid levels, or in people using statins. There was no evidence for an effect in either women or men considered separately.

“Carefully done trials provide no support for the hypothesis that fish oil supplements help,” said the senior author, Dr. Robert Clarke, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford.

The American Heart Association recommends supplements for people with coronary artery disease who may not get enough omega-3’s by diet alone, but the study provided “no support” for those guidelines, Dr. Clarke said.