There are two new important studies on the efficacy- in any- of supplementation with omega-3.
Before reading further, remember:
- We’re not doctors.
- We don’t give medical advice.
- Our constant mantra that if you die from other causes, the good work you’ve done to grow a big brain is wasted.
With that preamble, whether or not supplementing with omega-3 provides any health benefit has been hotly debated for years. These new studies provide us at least a little insight.
The first study was sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) and led by Harvard Medical School Professor JoAnn E. Manson. If you’ve read along with us since we launched our newsletter, you likely remember her name. She’s on the medical frontier of heart health and more. This NIH study is abbreviated as VITAL: Vitamin D and Omega-3 Trial. (Clever people those research docs). There are 25,871 healthy adults participating. They had no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) at the inception. One part of the trial involved supplementation with omega-3 to determine if is helpful in reducing the risk of any of a wide-ranging set of heart ailments. The answer is: some people benefited, and some didn’t.
As usual, there was a group that received a daily dose of omega-3 and a group that received a placebo. The omega-3 dosage was 1 gram. (Note: most OTC omega supplements quote in milligrams: 1,000 milligrams= 1 gram.) Individuals eating fish regularly, i.e. 1.5 or more times a week, saw no benefit from supplementation. Individuals who eat little or no fish experienced a 19% reduction in heart attacks compared to those receiving a placebo. African-Americans saw a 77% reduction in heart attacks(!)
The other study was conducted by Dr. Deepak Bhatt, professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, a cardiologist and Executive Director of Interventional Cardio Programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Dr. P. Gabriel Steg, Professor of Cardiology at Paris Diderot University and Director of the Coronary Care Unit; and a large international team. It’s called the REDUCE-IT: Reduction of Cardiovascular Events with EPA-Intervention. The REDUCE-IT study focused on middle-age and older adults who had risk factors for heart problems or had already had serious heart problems and had elevated levels of triglycerides. This dosage was much higher – 4 grams a day. The group receiving omega-3 supplements had 25% lower incurrence of a “cardiovascular event” or dying from heart disease. (Not sure if “cardiovascular event” means heart attack or not, but it clearly isn’t good).
Big doses of omega-3 such as the aforementioned 4 grams/day have their own set of risks. If your situation matches one of these groups that benefitted from supplementation, and you think this might be for you, see your doc. Remember, WE AREN’T DOCTORS and WE AREN’T QUALIFIED TO GIVE MEDICAL ADVICE!
Here’s a link to the very-plain English summary of the VITAL Study. And here’s one to the REDUCE-IT study , which isn’t so plain English. If you’re going to do some follow up with your physician, we recommend you print this nice summary of both studies from Harvard Health Publishing and take it with you.
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