In 2018, there was a big hullabaloo about the heart health benefits of fish oil. All the major news outlets reported on a research review that looked at existing clinical trials on the heart health benefits of fish oil — and found that there really weren’t any.
But before you toss your fish oil pills in the trash, you should know that wasn’t the last word on the heart health benefits of omega-3s. In fact, Easy Health Options contributor Virginia Tims-Lawson just wrote about why that research review didn’t present a clear and accurate view of fish oil’s heart health benefits. So, at the very least, read that before you toss those (expensive!) pills in the trash.
And you might want to take a look at this more recent research analysis on fish oil and heart health too….
This analysis from researchers at Harvard provides the most up-to-date evidence on the heart benefits of omega-3 supplements. And it came to a different conclusion than the last one.
Fish oil supplements do lower cardiovascular disease risk
Harvard researchers just reviewed randomized clinical trials on omega-3 supplements and heart health. And they found that these supplements reduce the risk of heart attacks, death from coronary heart disease and death from cardiovascular disease. The only cardiovascular problem they didn’t lower the risk of was stroke.
This review included data from over 120,000 adults in 13 randomized trials. And once researchers crunched all the numbers, fish oil supplements reduced the risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease (CHD) by eight percent
But wait a minute… only eight percent? Is that really worth it?
Let me put it this way… millions and millions of people die from cardiovascular disease every year. So, even small decreases in risk still mean that thousands of people could live with healthy hearts instead of dying from heart disease.
Researchers also found that the heart benefits of omega-3 supplements were dose-dependent, which means the more people took, the more they lowered their risk. In most clinical trials, participants only take 840 mg of fish oil per day. But if they took more, there’s a good chance they’d experience a greater reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.
But hold up… why were these results different than that other review?
Well, this review included data from three recently completed large-scale trials. These trials increased the sample size by 64 percent, which means this review is of higher quality than the last one.
Should you take fish oil supplements?
So those expensive fish oil supplements aren’t a bunch of baloney, after all. That doesn’t mean you have to keep (or start) taking them. Getting plenty of omega-3s in your diet should be your first priority in the fight against cardiovascular disease. Here are the fish that contain the most omega-3s:
- Wild salmon from Alaska
- Arctic char
- Atlantic mackerel
- Rainbow trout
- Albacore tuna
- Pacific halibut
But it’s not a bad idea to eat fish and take omega-3 supplements. If you read the article by Easy Health Options contributor Virginia Tims-Lawson, “What the studies got wrong about fish oil’s heart health benefits,” then you know that part of the problem is that our current omega-3 guidelines aren’t encouraging us to get enough.
To get enough omega-3s to give your heart health a boost, you should eat fish at least three times per week and take an omega-3 EPA/DHA supplement.
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- In major meta-analysis, omega-3 fish oil supplements linked with lower cardiovascular disease risk — MedicalXpress
- Marine Omega‐3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease: An Updated Meta‐Analysis of 13 Randomized Controlled Trials Involving 127 477 Participants — Journal of the American Heart Association
- Fish oil supplements for a healthy heart ‘nonsense’ — BBC
- More fish consumption and omega-3 supplementation needed to push the omega-3 index to 8 percent — EurekAlert!
- 13 Best Fish: High in Omega-3s – and Environment-Friendly — U.S. News & World Report