Fish oil provides no health benefit, study finds

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Fish oil

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Heart health may not be as easy as popping a pill.

New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that omega-3 fish oil supplements do not protect against heart attack, stroke or sudden death.

Researchers from the University Hospital of Ioannina in Greece looked at data from 20 existing studies involving close to 70,000 patients who had been given omega-3 supplements vs. those given a placebo. They found no statistically significant decrease in mortality from any cause among those taking the supplements.

“The findings do not justify the use of omega-3 supplements regularly as a treatment or prevention, researcher Evangelos C. Rizos, MD, and colleagues from Greece’s University Hospital of Ioannina write in the Journal of the American Medical Association,” WebMD reports.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, affecting 27.1 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

But this study supports the theory that we can’t buy ourselves out of the problem through health short cuts.

The fish oil industry is making a killing out our propensity for dietary laziness. In 2011, Americans spent $1.1 billion on the supplements, up 5.4 percent from 2010, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. This translates to millions of tons of fish unnecessarily stripped from an already depleted ocean.

The belief that fish oil supports heart health stems from a look at cultures where fish consumption is high and heart disease is low.

So, for many McEaters, popping a fish oil pill has seemed like a way to have their fish and eat a burger too.

While this study is leading many of the physicians interviewed by the media in response to the findings recommending that people eat fish as a whole food, rather than ingesting a highly processed, isolated component of the animals, it may be just as misguided as the rampant use of fish oil pills – which are 100 percent fat – for heart disease.

According to a well-known plant-based diet proponent, Dr. John McDougall, a person who chooses fish over hamburgers is likely to choose an overall healthier diet in general. He also notes that “eating the fish does not prevent heart attacks, it is the not eating beef, chicken, and cheese that saves lives.”

This newest study joins a few others in knocking the claims by companies making money off our sick culture that health can be found in a pill.

ABC News pointed to two recent studies that also came to the conclusion that pressing the heated oil from dead, polluted fish is not a magic health elixir packaged in a shiny, squishy pill.

Isolating one part of a whole food and taking a supplement of that is a manufactured way of seeing health. Like the animals who evolve to eat a specific plant in a symbiotic relationship, our cells have developed alongside those of the plants that nourish us.

You can’t manufacture health, you have to grow it.

  • Tina Page

    Tina is a journalist and mother of three who's lived all her life in the South Bay of Los Angeles except for a two-year stint in the heart of Spain. She believes humans have the capacity to make this a beautiful world for all species to live, and mothers have a special charge to raise their children to enjoy, love and respect all creatures.

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