Fish Oil May Not Actually Help Prevent Heart Disease

According to an article recently posted in CBC News, a new 2014 study has found that 1970s research done on the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids is deeply flawed. In the original 1970s study, Danish physicians H.O. Bang and D.J. Dyerburg concluded that the Greenland Inuit population had a low prevalence of heart disease due to a diet rich in fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids. However, a new study to be published later this summer highlights that the original study never measured to frequency of heart disease in the Inuit population. Records used for source data in that study were sparse and in many cases hearsay given the remote nature of the Inuit, and “very soft, from the point of view of science.”

The new 2014 study, led by Dr. George Fodor, found that the Inuit population does have similar rates of heart disease compared to non-Inuit populations, including very high stroke death rates. Fodor notes that most researchers never read the original 1970s study and took its conclusions at face value.

“The fish oil capsules I don’t think will stand up to a critical review. They simply don’t do anything for you,” he said. “The people should know that it doesn’t help to prevent heart disease.”

I know a lot of people who take omega-3 fatty acid supplements for nutritional benefit and I think it’s fascinating that every decade or so science turns what we think we know about health and nutrition on its head. Nutrition habits have changed dramatically since I was a child, I still remember “eggs are bad,” and it will be interesting to see how our understanding of nutritional health continues to evolve over the next decade, particularly with the rising obesity epidemic and the waterfall of adverse health consequences.

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