A new German study on omega-3s led to potentially misleading headlines and leads today in mainstream news outlets. The study, presented Monday at the American College of Cardiology conference in Orlando, Fla., concluded that omega-3s add no extra benefit for heart attack patients who are already receiving state-of-the-art medical treatment. And while news organizations AFP and Bloomberg reported that the study contradicted previous studies, that's not the case, said Douglas "Duffy" MacKay, N.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for Council for Responsible Nutrition.
"These findings were not negative at all," MacKay said. He explained that the new randomized study, which followed almost 4,000 post-heart attack patients, compared patients receiving top-notch conventional drug treatments to those receiving the same treatment plus an additional dose of omega-3s.
"In our study, we saw no beneficial effect. In patients who are already taking optimal medical therapy, cardiac event rates become very low and omega-3 do not further improve them," said Jochen Senges, a professor of cardiology at the Heart Center Ludwigshafen, University of Heidelberg, Germany, according to AFP.
What might not be clear to headline-reading consumers is, this does not refute the previous studies that show omega-3s' benefits for heart patients as well as the general population. "You have to read the details," MacKay said.
It's the 37-year-old man who might be putting on a little weight, seeing his cholesterol and triglyceride levels rising, who could read this and think, "I didn't really like taking fish oil anyway," though he's one who could really benefit from the omega-3s, MacKay explained.
"There are over 8,000 published studies related to omega-3s and more than 2,000 were for cardio health," MacKay said. "It's a large body of evidence."
The American Heart Association recommends that coronary heart disease patients take a gram of omega-3s per day, and recommends 2 to 4 grams per day to patients needing to lower triglyceride levels.