Fish oils have become a hot topic in conventional medicine. The American Heart Association recommends that people with coronary artery disease should take fish oil supplements if they do not regularly eat fish or other sources of the essential fats EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This recommendation comes on the tails of an abundance of studies showing that fish oils reduce the formation of dangerous blood clots as well as improving blood fat levels.
But then you have the New York Times publishing a statement by Dr. Robert Clarke, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford. He said, "Carefully done trials provide no support for the hypothesis that fish oil supplements help."
So, what's the scoop?
The doctor's statement came as a result of a meta-study published just last month in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The study looked at 10 large trials totaling 77,917 subjects and concluded that there's no scientific support that taking fish oil supplements is going to prevent heart attacks.
In that article, the researchers concluded, "This meta-analysis demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids [fish oils] had no significant association with fatal or nonfatal coronary heart disease or any major vascular events. It provides no support for current recommendations for the use of such supplements in people with a history of coronary heart disease." Here's why this conclusion is problematic.
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Another meta-study, published only three months before, reaches an entirely different conclusion. In that study, the researchers found 14 randomized controlled trials involving 71,899 men and women. What they found was a statistically significant 1.6% less chance of dying from a heart attack in the people who took fish oil supplements than in those who did not. Admittedly, 1.6% is not much of an improvement. But, according to the authors, since there are no side effects from fish oil supplements as compared to medications "even a modest benefit is meaningful." But why is it that the studies don't show a better risk reduction with fish oils?
It might be that the doses were too small.
According to the authors of the second study, "A possible explanation for the mixed results in randomized controlled trials regarding both fatal and non-fatal coronary heart disease events relates to dosage." They went on to explain that when a combined dosage of EPA and DHA was greater than 1 gram per day, the decrease in risk went up to 8%. And in another trial using 1.8 grams per day there was a statistically significant 19% risk reduction.
In any event, no matter how much fish oil supplements decrease heart disease risk, the health benefits of fish oil supplements have been proven in so many areas that they are probably the single most important supplement that we can take. Other benefits include reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of heart arrhythmias, better diabetes management, decreased blood fats, improved cognitive function, improved mood disorders, higher IQ's in children, blood clot prevention, better weight control, improved eye health, and lower levels of inflammation.
That's why I recommend taking two capsules of Complete Daily Oils every day just to make sure that you're getting enough. And according to the studies, to get the maximum benefit for heart disease prevention, you should take four capsules per day.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Aung T, Halsey J, et al. Associations of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement Use With Cardiovascular Disease Risks: Meta-analysis of 10 Trials Involving 77?917 Individuals. JAMA Cardiol. 2018 Jan 31.
Maki KC, Palacios OM, et al. Use of supplemental long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and risk for cardiac death: An updated meta-analysis and review of research gaps. J Clin Lipidol. 2017 Sep - Oct;11(5):1152-1160