Omega-3 supplements do not protect against heart disease: Study

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Omega-3 fatty acids have long been touted as heart healthy, but taking them in supplement form does little to protect against heart disease, a large new analysis suggests.
The study combined data from 112,059 patients who took part in 79 smaller randomized trials. Researchers found that supplementation with omega-3s had little or no effect on the risk of death, heart attack or stroke. Omega 3 supplements did, however, have some benefit in that they helped to reduce triglyceride levels. But the downside to that was they also reduced levels of so-called good cholesterol, HDL, according to the findings published in the Cochrane Library journal.
The results were not especially surprising to the team that performed the analysis. “When I look at our findings, what amazes me is how long we have believed in the effect of omega 3 fats . . . on heart and vascular health,” said senior author Lee Hooper, a dietician and researcher at the Norwich Medical School of the University of East Anglia in the UK. “The trials are very consistent. The highest quality trials published over several decades consistently show that there is little or no effect on whether we experience heart disease, stroke or arrhythmia,” she said.Hooper and her colleagues looked at data from randomized controlled trials that followed patients from one to six years. The analysis did find a benefit from consuming canola oil and nuts, especially in preventing heart arrhythmias. But, Hooper said, the effects were small. For example, 143 people would need to increase their intake of canola oil to prevent one person from developing this heart condition, she said. And 1,000 people would need to increase their canola oil or nut consumption to prevent one person from dying from heart disease or having a stroke or heart attack.
Even though the data did not show a benefit from omega-3 supplements in terms of heart attack and stroke prevention, Hooper isn’t ready to tell everyone to toss their pills.

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