Taking Omega 3 supplements WON’T cut the risk of early death
Taking Omega 3 supplements WON’T cut the risk of early death and may even do some harm, major study finds
- Scientists found taking supplements saw early death risk drop by a tiny margin
- An estimated £60million is spent on Omega 3 supplements each year in the UK
- They are one of the most popular types of supplement for those who take them
Fish oil supplements taken by millions of us do nothing to cut the risk of an early death, a major review has found.
For decades we have been told taking pills or capsules of omega 3 supplements will improve our health, mainly by helping the functioning of the heart.
But a 730-page report published today by the respected Cochrane Library has found no evidence that they reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke or premature death. Scientists even found a hint that the supplements may do some harm, by reducing levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol which protects the heart.
Britons spends tens of millions on omega 3 pills, capsules and oils. They are one of the most popular type of supplement, with more than a quarter of people who take any kind of supplement choosing omega 3.
The British Heart foundation backed the study and urged people to focus on healthy eating instead
Lead author Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: ‘We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega 3 supplements protect the heart.’
Dr Hooper’s team combined the results of 79 trials, involving a total of 112,059 people.
The scientists found taking omega 3 supplements saw the risk of early death drop by a tiny margin – from 9 per cent to 8.8 per cent, which is not enough to be judged a statistically significant impact.
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They said small amounts of omega 3 are essential for good health – but these can be found in food and taking more than these tiny amounts do little to further improve health.
And taking too much may even reduce protective HDL cholesterol, they found, although evidence for this was limited. The main types of omega 3 fatty acids are alphalinolenic acid (ALA), which is found in nuts and seeds, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in salmon and fish oils including cod liver oil.
The NHS advises that people should eat two portions of fish a week – including at least one of oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, because of its high levels of omega-3. Many people, however, do not eat oily fish and so choose supplements instead.
Around 100,000 people were trialled and only marginal differences were found among those who had taken the pills
The British Heart Foundation last night backed the study and urged people to focus on healthy food rather than pills.
But Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the industry-funded Health and Food Supplements Information Service, said: ‘Early studies of omega 3 fats, involving thousands of participants, found a protective benefit for the heart but in our highly medicalised age, where many older people are maintained on statins and blood pressure medication, it is much harder to pick up the modest effects of dietary change.
‘This doesn’t mean that it’s not worth taking omega 3s as we currently consume just half of the 400mg DHA and EPA a day recommended by nutrition experts…
‘Omega-3s are also used by the body to maintain the health of the eyes, immune function and brain.’
A £60million industry
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for the functioning of the body, lowering fat levels in the blood, reducing blood pressure and stopping blood clots.
An estimated £60million is spent on omega 3 supplements in Britain every year – they are sold as capsules, pills and oils, available without a prescription in supermarkets, pharmacies and corner shops. Omega 3 types EPA and DHA are found in oily fish, such as salmon and another type, AHA, is found in nuts and seeds.
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