Skip the pills, eat the fish. That's the upshot of advice for heart health stemming from a new Italian study.
"Contrary to the expectations, adding supplemental omega-3 fatty acids does not have any specific advantage in a population that is considered at high risk of cardiovascular disease," said lead researcher Gianni Tognoni, of the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche in Milan, reported U.S. News & World Report.
The Italian researchers randomly assigned more than 12,000 people with heart disease risk factors to either omega-3 fatty acid supplements or a placebo. During five years of follow-up, more than 1,400 people died from heart disease or had a heart attack or stroke. During those years, 11.7 percent of the omega-3 takers suffered from one of those issues compared to 11.9 percent of those who took the placebo. The research was published in the May 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Omega-3 fatty acids do seem to help prevent abnormal heart rhythms following a heart attack or heart failure, said Tognoni. There appears, however, to be no value in taking the supplements to prevent heart disease.
"Based on the totality of current evidence, the pendulum appears to be shifting away from omega-3 fatty acid supplementation providing significant cardiovascular event reduction," Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in the U.S. News & World Report piece.
“The results are disappointing, but consistent with recent studies showing no significant effect of fish oil supplements,” cardiovascular expert James Stein told forbes.com. He said that fish oil supplements “are not a panacea.”
Instead, seek a pan
“Recommendations to eat fish, in the context of an overall healthy diet, increasing activity, and stopping smoking, should remain the priority for reducing risk,” researcher Dariush Mozaffarian, said in the article. “Still, there was no evidence that fish oil supplements cause any harm or risk, so for patients who won’t eat fish or wish to be sure they are getting their omega-3′s, there is no reason to stop taking fish oil supplements if they are already on them.
To assuage your disappointment in the Italian study results, enjoy these yummy recipes for salmon.