ADVERTISEMENT

If you take fish oil every day for your heart, then pay attention. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows it’s a dud. It’s not worth the money you’re paying.

I, for one, am disappointed. I’ve been swallowing these super large capsules for years assuming I’ll have a stronger heart and live longer. Every time I had a fish oil burp, I thought, “Good for me. Good for my heart. I can take it.”

Researchers combed through more than 3,500 clinical studies settling on 20 well-designed, gold-standard studies of fish oil. Taken together these projects followed nearly 70,000 patients – half of them taking fish oil every day, half not.

When they analyzed who died from heart disease and stroke, they found no difference between the fish-oil swallowers and the others. Then they broadened this by looking at all causes of death besides heart disease such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, diabetes and cancer, and they found the same thing. Absolutely no benefit to taking fish oil.

Now fish oil has been shown to lower triglyceride levels. In fact, the FDA approved one name-brand formulation to do so. And we know that high triglycerides are associated with heart disease. So we logically have assumed that lowering triglycerides will lower the risk of heart disease. Fair enough, but it doesn’t pan out.

Fish oil also was thought to reduce cardiac arrhythmia such as ventricular fibrillation. V-fib is a common cause of sudden death. All those AEDs, automatic defibrillators, that you see in public spaces such as airports are there to treat V-fib.

Many thought fish oil would stabilize the “electricity” that runs your heart, thus reducing the risk of V-fib. The data shows that it doesn’t. We thought fish oil would act like aspirin does, keeping your blood “thin.” Again, struck out.

That’s science for you. Always throwing a wrench in the road.

The reason we started on this was because studies have shown that people who eat fish once or twice a week have fewer heart attacks. And that observation still holds.

But fish is not fish oil. Mother Nature puts other things in fish that may protect our heart. What we need here is for Mother Nature to be our high-paid consultant and tell us what’s what. Fat chance.

My spin: This is a very good study that we have to take seriously. If you believe good science, as I do, then you have to question whether swallowing a giant fish oil capsule every day is worth anything. I’ve tossed my bottle.

On the other side of this, eating fish once or twice a week is beneficial. Can someone please pass me the teriyaki salmon?

Stay well.

Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor, author and broadcast journalist. He also hosts a popular radio call-in program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WNED.