Entries in Omega-3 (4)


Fish Oil No Lifesaver, Study Finds

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Fish oil -- a supplement taken daily by millions of Americans -- may not help you live longer, a new study released Tuesday suggests.

The study is the latest piece of research feeding the debate over whether regularly taking omega-3 supplements -- most commonly in the form of fish oil -- helps the heart.

A number of clinical trials have found that fish oil seems to lower risk of heart attack, sudden death, and even stroke -- though exactly how this works remains unclear. Yet, other studies have found little evidence of connection between these often pricey supplements and health benefits.

In the new report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, lead study author Dr. Evangelos Rizos and his colleagues completed an extensive review of existing data. They pooled results from 20 studies that included almost 70,000 adult patients.

Through rigorous statistical analyses, they said, they found no significant risk reduction in those getting increased omega-3 in their diet or through supplements.

Fish oil supplements are among the most popular dietary supplements among Americans. Though it is hard to pin down an exact figure for sales of such products, an article in Forbes magazine noted that, according to the Nutrition Business Journal, over-the-counter fish oil supplements accounted for $739 million in sales in 2009. Meanwhile, in 2010 Americans spent nearly $4 billion on products fortified with extra omega-3s, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts.

While the news may be disappointing to many expecting to live longer and have healthier hearts by taking these supplements daily, it's not the first time such findings have been reported. In April, a South Korean study of 20,000 people found a similar lack of heart benefits, and in June a separate study suggested that brain benefits, too, may have been oversold.

The results have some top cardiologists convinced that consumers should pause before buying these supplements.

"There's never been any compelling evidence of a clinical benefit," said Dr. Steven Nissen, professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.

Despite these mixed results, however, many physicians still recommend these supplements, which can cost $40 or more per bottle.

"Patients and doctors like the idea that it is natural and has no real side effects," said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of New York University Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.

And some doctors say the findings of the new study are no reason to cut bait on fish oil.

"Meta-analysis, particularly when neutral, should not be used to draw a conclusion," said Melvyn Rubenfire of the University of Michigan.

Rubenfire said many of the studies included in this report did not have long enough follow-up, noting that heart and stroke prevention studies "are generally designed with five-year duration." Many patients studied here, he said, were followed for less than three years.

Rubenfire added that he believes this information "should dampen the enthusiasm for routine costly supplement in healthy persons" -- but that he and many experts agreed that omega-3 supplements are still a good strategy for patient with high triglycerides.

Some experts also note that the report is limited because the authors only included results from 20 of the thousands of studies on this topic, as many of these studies vary in terms of the types of patients and the doses of fish oil studied.

"This inherently makes it hard to group them together for one analysis," said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of cardiovascular disease prevention at Continuum Health Partners.

Myerson said she thinks that while government guideline committees will consider this study, they won't "change or challenge current recommendations."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Not Offer Touted Brain Benefits After All

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Despite doctors' advice that omega-3 fatty acids can prevent a decline in cognitive function, a new review of previous studies suggests that taking omega-3 supplements may not offer any brain benefits at all.

Researchers led by Emma Sydenham at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analyzed data from three separate studies that evaluated the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on cognitive function among older people who showed no signs of dementia or other brain dysfunction.

The studies involved a total of 3,536 people and lasted between six and 40 months.

They found that subjects with normal brain function who either supplemented their diet with omega-3 fatty acids -- fats commonly found in fish and plant oils -- either in capsule form or by using supplement-containing margarine spreads, did not perform better on standardized tests than subjects who received a placebo.

"The results of the available studies show no benefit for cognitive function with [omega-3] supplementation among cognitively healthy older people," the authors wrote.  But they did add that researchers need to conduct longer studies to assess whether there are preventive benefits.

But experts not involved in the research review say there is clear evidence of the ability of omega-3s to prevent cognitive decline.

Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, said that the studies the Sydenham team evaluated have major flaws.

"Other studies have found that those who ingest omega-3 fatty acids are at lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease," said Small.

A study published in February found a link between low levels of omega-3s and a more rapid aging of the brain and greater likelihood of losing memory and abstract thinking ability.

The extent of those cognitive benefits remains under debate, however, said Dr. Samuel Gandy, a professor of Alzheimer's disease research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

"There is some evidence that omega-3s may protect from aging-associated memory impairment, but there is no consistent evidence that omega-3s delay or protect from Alzheimer's disease," he said.

While the role of omega-3 fatty acids in protecting the brain still needs to be fleshed out, the researchers who performed the study review stressed that omega-3s may offer other benefits.  While they didn't mention it specifically, helping protect against cardiovascular disease is one of them.  Eating fish, they wrote, "is recommended as part of a healthy diet."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Scientisits 'See' New Benefit in Fish Diets

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Eating fish may be the key to saving your eyesight.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore claim that the onset of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, might be minimized by a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fish have in abundance.

AMD is prevalent in seniors and is the major cause of blindness in Caucasians.

Lead study author Sheila K. West reported a study of 2,400 people between the ages of 65 and 84 revealed that those who ate less omega-3-rich fish and shellfish were more prone to contracting AMD and being in the advanced stages of the disease.

Seniors in the study group lived in Maryland's Eastern Shore region, where fish and shellfish are a dietary staple.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Omega-3 May Not Slow Cognitive Decline of Alzheimer’s

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- A new trial shows that patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease reap no apparent benefits from taking supplements with the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA.

In an 18-month trial of more than 400 patients, it was found that the rate of change -- measured on the cognitive subscale of the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale -- actually increased 7.98 points among those given DHA, compared with 8.27 points among the placebo group. The findings were reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. Joseph F. Quinn of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and colleagues.

Patients also showed no rate of change on the Clinical Dementia Rating -- which was an increase of 2.87 points for the DHA supplement group and 2.93 for those on placebo.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio