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Flawed Study on Omega 3 Fats

The news flashed across the screen — Omega-3 fats do nothing to help heart patients.  Use your money elsewhere!

It was all over the media, TV, radio, online and in print.

Coincidentally, I was scheduled to do radio interviews all day on … you guessed, omega-3 fats.

flawed study on omega 3 fatsWell this study quickly changed the tone of the radio interviews and the questions asked from those interviewing me.

As you know, we’re big fans of omega-3 fats, both through eating fish and taking a high quality fish oil.  We’ve talked about them before and are supported by many, many studies done over the last several decades.

This study was different.

It was published in the highly regarded Journal of the American Medical Association.  And though the Journal is very well respected, this particular study certainly left a lot to be desired.

Basically, it was what’s called a meta analysis – meaning a review of many other studies.  In this case, 20 studies.  And in those 20 studies examined, they found no significant association with all cause mortality, cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack and stroke for those taking omega-3 fats.

Conclusion from media outlets and one well known news anchor "Omega 3 fatty acids could not prevent heart disease as once thought." 

This. Is. False.

Why do we say this?  Let’s look at this study a lot more closely, instead of simply reading an abstract or trusting a small snippet from your favorite news anchor.

The conclusion above was based on only 20 studies. While that may seem like a lot …

… there are currently 3,635 citations on these topics, but only 20 out of that 3600+ were included. As we’ve said before, science is like politics – when you take snippets of the whole picture, you can create whatever message you want.

The other piece to this is that 68,00+ subjects from these 20 studies had established and mostly severe heart disease.  Combining different populations makes it hard to draw hard – nearly impossible – to draw conclusions.  Second, some subjects were taking multiple cardiovascular drugs, which may interfere with the true outcome of the omega 3 fats themselves.

And another … the doses used, an average of 1.4 g omega-3 daily, is also low when trying to "even" out the balance of omega-6 fats (like the dangerous soybean oil) in the diet, as we’ve discussed in previous posts. 

No significant association in these 20 studies does not prove that a significant reduction of cardiovascular disease by omega-3 does not occur.

Many studies show strong significant benefit from omega-3 intake.

In regards to this particular study — what I call a "selective meta analysis" — it directly conflicts with the many, many much more well controlled studies measuring the same outcome.

Mohr Results Bottom Line?  Continue (or start) to take a high quality fish oil supplement daily.  Aim for 1-2 grams EPA + DHA for general wellness.  Reduce your intake of omega-6 fats.

Do us a favor and click the like button below to share it with your friends and family so they know to keep taking their omega-3 fats!

5 Responses to Flawed Study on Omega 3 Fats

  1. Mark September 19, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Anyone else starting to think we are living in bizarro world? All these “crap” studies lately, beef, eggs/cigs, organic, now this… Is it any wonder people are confused and seems like being purposely mislead.

    • Chris and Kara Mohr September 19, 2012 at 6:23 am #

      Crazy, right?

  2. J.C. September 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Would you please share a vegetarian (no fish/gelatin) omega 3 supplement that I can give my kids? They are too young to swallow the capsules, which are the only veg sources that I’ve found after lots of research. One of my kids has a congenital heart defect, so I especially want him to get the EPA for cardiovascular health, which I know is the most difficult to find in vegetarian form. Thanks!

    • Chris and Kara Mohr September 20, 2012 at 6:24 am #

      Nordic Naturals makes an Algae Oil product. I think it may be be liquid, but if a capsule, you can just break it open and add to food. Or they can chew it — my 3 year old chews her capsules

  3. J.C. September 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    Would you please share a vegetarian (no fish/gelatin) omega 3 supplement that I can give my kids? They are too young to swallow the capsules, which are the only veg sources that I’ve found after lots of research. One of my kids has a congenital heart defect, so I especially want him to get the EPA for cardiovascular health, which I know is the most difficult to find in vegetarian form. Thanks!

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