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Natural Omega-3 Better Than Fish Oil Supplements for Heart Health

A study released last week finds fish oil supplements high in omega-3 fatty acids have no significant benefit to heart health.

The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, sought conclusive evidence to years of conflicting data on fish oil supplements. Researchers looked at 20 clinical trials involving omega-3 fatty acid supplements derived from fish oil and found no significant association between the supplements and incidences of cardiac-related deaths, heart attacks, or strokes.

Medical professionals have long recommended omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid after seeing low rates of heart disease among cultures with diets rich in omega-3. But the new study suggests a difference between taking fish oil supplements and consuming foods that are naturally high in omega-3 like certain types of fish, walnuts, flax seeds, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Studies have shown that eating these foods can extend the lives of people who have already had a heart attack.

The findings speak to the problem of relying on individual supplements to treat or prevent health conditions. USA Today reports that sales of fish oil supplements reached $1.1 billion last year, a 5.4% increase from 2010. Richard Karas, director of the preventative cardiology center at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said Americans are often quick to take a pill but don’t want to hear that they should look at their diet.

While fish oil supplements might not prevent heart attack or stroke as once hoped, they are still approved for lowering triglycerides in patients with pancreatitis. Researchers also suggest that further research is warranted to discover potential benefits to other conditions or specific patient populations.

Image Source: Jonas N/Flickr