A new study was published last week, which was a comprehensive review of all the available high-quality research on fish and fish oil supplements in relation to cardiovascular disease.
Like a lot of studies in nutrition that go against a popular idea – and fish oil supplements are one of the most popular dietary supplements going – it made the headlines.
So, what’s the scoop? The study found that fish oil supplements did not protect against cardiovascular disease. But there are a few caveats to note before you ditch your salmon.
First, most of the included subjects had pre-existing heart disease, and it is unlikely that any one nutrient – no matter how strong – will have much impact on what is a complex and multifactorial disease.
Second, there are specific doses that are associated with improvement in heart disease risk factors, and most studies included were under that dose.
Third, and most important, the study was not a reflection of oily fish taken in through the diet – just the supplements. And this is really important, because it adds to a now long and growing list of nutrients that appear to have a protective benefit when consumed through a food in an overall diet pattern, but lack the effect we think it will have when the particular nutrient is isolated into a supplement.
Oily fish consumption, as part of a diet pattern low in saturated fat, higher in fats from extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fibre from wholegrain carbohydrates and legumes, is associated not only with lower risk of heart disease, but also dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Also bear in mind that the lack of effect of the fish oil supplements in this study was only in relation to cardiovascular disease. Fish oil supplementation is still highly important during pregnancy, lactation, and for other conditions.
So, while the supplements may not be the heart saviour we thought they were, the advice to consume oily fish as part of a wider healthful diet pattern still stands.
The recommended dose? 2-3 servings of around 120g per week.
As always, stay fit and stay healthy,
Team Bua Fit
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