They’re the most popular food supplement in the UK with British people spending an estimated £60 million on them each year. But are omega-3 fish oils really worth it when it comes to protecting your heart health?
Perhaps not, according to a large review by the respected Cochrane Library – a non-profit, non-government organisation formed to organise medical research – that reviewed 79 trials involving over 100,000 people and found they make “little or no difference” to protecting heart health.
Omega 3 fats are known to lower fat levels in the blood, reduce blood pressure and help prevent blood clots. They can’t be made by our bodies and therefore need to come from our diet and are found in oily fish like trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines and fresh tuna, nuts, seeds and, of course, supplements. But this new study seems to suggest that taking them in supplement form has few benefits.
“The government has been advising people to eat oily fish once or twice a week since 1989, when our intake was very low, but the national diet has changed a lot since then and deaths from heart disease have decreased quite dramatically,” says Professor Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London. “If you follow this advice, you’ll reach the healthy threshold. If you take supplements you’ll be above that threshold but intakes above this level are unlikely to have any further benefit. Because a small amount of an essential nutrient is needed, it does not follow that more is always better.