Fish oil is in the headlines again.
- Fish Oil Fizzles for Fighting Heart Attack, Stroke – WebMD
- Do You Really Need an Omega-3 Supplement? – Mens Health
- Fish oil supplements don’t prevent heart attacks, study says – USA Today
- Analysis casts doubt on benefits of omega-3 supplements – LA Times
- Health Buzz: Fish Oil and Omega 3’s Don’t Prevent Heart Attacks – US News & World Report
- Omega 3s Fail to Prevent Stroke – Medpage
Omega-3 fatty acids have been touted as a way to reduce the risk of a host of cardiovascular problems, but now Greek researchers report that may not be true.
In a review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Greek researchers analyzed 20 studies totaling nearly 69,000 people and found no association between people taking omega-3 supplements and decreased mortality from any cause, as well as cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack or stroke.
Their finding runs counter to the recommendations of many experts, including American Heart Association officials, who say it’s important to consume enough omega-3 fatty acids for good heart health.
“Currently, American Heart Association Guidelines provide a recommendation that fish oil supplementation may be considered in individuals with cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He was not involved in the new study.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oil) supplements have been demonstrated in many, but not all, randomized clinical trials to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by 10 percent to 15 percent, Fonarow said.
“In conclusion, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are not statistically significantly associated with major cardiovascular outcomes across various patient populations. Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or guidelines supporting dietary administration,” they concluded.
The study, however, did show a 9 percent reduction in cardiac death with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, Fonarow noted.
“Other outcomes, such as heart attack and sudden death, showed favorable trends, with 11 percent and 13 percent reduction in risk,” Fonarow said. “As fish oil supplements are widely available, inexpensive, and very well-tolerated, even a small benefit would be valuable at the individual, population and global health level.”
While further studies are needed, it remains reasonable to consider dietary consumption of fish or fish oil supplements for modest cardiovascular protection, Fonarow said.
Duffy MacKay, vice president for Scientific and Regulatory Affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington, D.C., added that “it’s important to put this in context.”
“This has no implications and doesn’t change the importance of insuring adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids through diet or supplements,” he said.
MacKay noted that omega-3 fatty acids are not drugs, but nonetheless important for overall health. “We need to moderate our expectations; nutrients are not drugs, so the impact is much more moderate,” he said
– Fatty fish and fish-oil supplements may not be protective against heart attacks and stroke in populations already sick and at grater risk for both. Fatty fish and fish-oil supplements may not extend the life of those already sick and at greater risk of death from heart attack or stroke. But one study, even a well-designed, large-scale meta-analysis one cannot be looked at as the end-all be-all definitive “answer” to the question about whether fatty fish and even more specifically fish-oil supplements are beneficial in one way or another.
What follows are some reprints of articles I wrote here relating to fish and fish oil. Heart attack stroke and life extension are important considerations for determining the value of a food or supplement. But they aren’t the only benefits possible from fatty fish and/or fish-oil supplementation. Read the headlines below just to get an idea of what I mean.
For now, as I have for more than a decade, I recommend fatty-fish (salmon) at least twice a week. IF you are NOT going to do that then I recommend 1-3 grams of dha/epa per day from a molecularly distilled, enteric coated fish-oil supplement. I recommend this to improve the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats, to reduce overall inflammation and for any marginal cardioprotective effects we may gain.
Fish Oil Can Keep Your Telomere Long
Catchy article title huh?
What the heck is a telomere? Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes that reveal how biological stress ages a person. Keeping telomeres long is a goal we all need to have if we want to live longer.
A new study had this to say about the subject …
“Patients with the highest levels of omega-3 fish oils were found to display the slowest decrease in telomere length, whereas those with the lowest levels of omega-3 fish oils in the blood had the fastest rate of telomere shortening,” Farzaneh-Far said. “This suggests that these patients were aging faster than those with higher fish oil levels.”
They said omega-3s may protect against oxidative stress, or increase the activity of the telomerase enzyme, which would decrease telomere shortening by creating more accurate telomere copies.
Here’s a short video for as long as Medpage decides to make the video available.
You can read the entire article here
Farzaneh-Far R, et al “Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease” JAMA 2010; 303(3): 250-257.
David says: Every week something positive seems to be coming out about the benefits of fish oil. I personally take three 1000mg caps of enteric-coated fish oil (so I don’t get fish burp) per day. Along with now keeping my telomeres long a lot of other research indicates that fish oil is nature’s aspirin – keeps the blood thinner and slippery for easy movement, and it also can reduce inflammation and overall joint pain. And with all the years I’ve beat my body up lifting? I can use the joint pain reduction. I also eat salmon 1-3X/week but even when I eat the salmon I still take my fish oil caps.
Omega‑3 Fatty Acids May Reduce Inflammation and
Anxiety in Healthy Young Adults
Study suggests that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil reduce inflammation and anxiety in healthy young adults. http://tinyurl.com/5tljz87
A Reminder: Fish Oil Supplementation
Recommended For Most
We consume too many omega-6 fatty acids and too few omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance impacts overall inflammation, health and our ability to maximize fat loss around the abdomen.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish may reduce cardiac deaths, inflammatory disease, including rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis, and promote brain development and mental function (6).
Fish oil supplementation can help rebalance the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. If you aren’t consuming salmon (the most commonly-eaten omega-3 rich animal source) 2-3 times per week then a dietary supplement of molecularly distilled (impurities removed), enteric-coated (no fish burp) fish oil is strongly suggested everyday.
Fish Oil CAUSES Increase Prostate Cancer! Well, not exactly
In response to a brief reminder I wrote on this blog to take omega-3 fish oil or consume it from fatty fish like salmon one person commented (which I really do appreciate) that he had heard that fish-oil supplements could cause an increase in prostate cancer. The commenter wasn’t sure of the source of the study but a respected doctor at a hospital he works at had mentioned it recently.
Well I had actually remembered reading the abstract a while back but never got the full study – until now. The study my commenter was referring to was out of the Am J Epidemiol. 2011;173(12):1429–1439.
“EPA and DHA, found in fatty fish and in fish oil supplements, are hypothesized to reduce cancer risk through their antiinflammatory and immunomodulatory properties.” In another place in their research report they state “There were no associations of low-grade prostate cancer with any fatty acid measure.” So far so good – all makes sense.
And then they got a surprise.
“Indeed, our findings are disconcerting as they suggest that n-3 fatty acids, considered beneficial for coronary artery disease prevention, may increase high-grade prostate cancer risk, whereas trans-fatty acids, considered harmful, may reduce high-grade prostate cancer risk.”
The authors duly note limitations of their study and possible confounding variables for their unexpected results. I’ve also yet to meet a real science-minded individual who looks at one study and says “Ureka! This is the end-all be-all definitive guide to this subject!” However, this study was large and apparently very well done.
What does it really mean? Well it’d be improper to say that omega-3 fats increase prostate-cancer risk. While the surprising results are not good the increased risk was specifically for high-grade prostate cancer, not low-grade prostate cancer.
I think the authors conclude with the best guidance.
“These findings illustrate the complexity of research on nutrition and chronic disease risk, in which the effects of nutrients may differ across multiple diseases. A comprehensive understanding of the effects of nutrients on a broad range of diseases will be necessary before making recommendations for dietary changes or use of individual dietary supplements for disease prevention.”
Fish Oils Slows Prostate-Cancer Growth
It was October 6, 2011 when I wrote about a surprise research finding that fish-oil consumption might INCREASE high-grade prostate cancer risk. This was a surprise to the researchers because other research showed a decreased prostate-cancer risk or development in those who consumed more fatty fish high in omega-3s.
Now here we go again–but the other direction.
Men who ate a low-fat diet with fish oil supplements for four to six weeks before having their prostate removed had slower cancer-cell growth in their prostate tissue than men who ate a traditional, high-fat Western diet, according to a study by researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. (4)
“You truly are what you eat,” said Aronson, a clinical professor of urology who also serves as chief of urologic oncology at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Based on our animal studies, we were hopeful that we would see the same effects in humans. We are extremely pleased about our findings, which suggest that by altering the diet, we may favorably affect the biology of prostate cancer.”
The authors aren’t definitively saying fish oil is great for the prostate. The study was relatively short and small in size. But it does just go to show that one study doesn’t say it all 99 percent of the time.
For now? I still recommend 1-2 grams of supplemental fish oil per day for most adults but you should always discuss any dietary supplements with your physician to be sure there are no conflicts with other health factors and medications you may have.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Shown to Prevent or Slow Progression of Osteoarthritis
So let’s set the table real quick. Osteoarthritis (OA), for an aging population, is set to become the fourth leading cause of disability by 2020.
We, eating a typical Western “diet”, consume too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3 (fatty fish and flax). It’s been cited in other research that we consume 15-30 times as much omega-6 compared to omega-3. Our high consumption of omega-6 fats has been associated with a number of inflammatory disorders such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and colitis. Similarly, elevated levels of omega-6 have been linked to OA in bone and cartilage.
Our Paleolithic ancestors consumed about a 1:1 ration of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. That is, the ratios were about the same. I believe, as do many researchers, that getting closer to a 1:1 ratio is something to strive for and to use supplementation (fish and/or flax oils) if necessary to achieve it.
The study I’m reviewing here today used guinea pigs, not humans. Dr Tarlton, one of the study authors stated “The only way of being certain that the effects of omega-3 are as applicable to humans as demonstrated in guinea pigs is to apply omega-3 to humans. However, osteoarthritis in guinea pigs is perhaps the most appropriate model for spontaneous, naturally occurring osteoarthritis, and all of the evidence supports the use of omega-3 in human disease (3).
“This study demonstrates clear benefits of omega-3 supplementation in reducing the signs of OA in a naturally occurring model of disease. We propose that a high omega-3 diet has the potential to reduce signs of OA in both cartilage and subchondral bone. Further studies are needed to determine the influence of n-3 on established disease, and to confirm these effects in human OA (4).”