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Fish Oil Skeptics: These 5 Reports Provide Fodder for Doubters

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Omega-3 capsules. (roblan/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Sunday, 07 Dec 2014 01:41 PM

Skepticism about whether fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, helps to treat a variety of health issues is fueled by studies that have come out in the past five years.

Here are five studies or reports that have indicated fish oil supplements may not be as effective as previously thought.

1. Researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine determined that, contrary to previous reports, fish oil and the omega-3s contained in it do not help with major depressive disorder. Analyzing studies, the Yale study found that omega-3 fatty acids “have at most minimal efficacy in treating depression.” Published in 2011, the study found that “although there is still strong evidence based on the epidemiologic and cellular literature that omega-3/omega-6 FA balance may play an important role in the pathogenesis of depression, there is limited evidence for omega-3 fatty acid supplementation being an effective acute treatment for it.”

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2. A March 2014 study found that omega-3 fatty acids may not provide “significant protection against heart disease,” according to HealthDay News. Despite being much promoted as a positive for heart health (and other studies support that benefit of fish oil), HealthDay cited two studies that found “consistently little or no significant effect on reducing coronary heart disease events,” Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, a lead author of one study, told the health publication.

3. Skeptics of the benefits of fish oil can point to articles, like this one in LiveScience, which says, “Some of the possible benefits of fish oil that appeared in early studies of the supplement seem to have vanished. Along with the difficulty of isolating the effects of a single nutrient, it's possible that those early studies had small sample sizes, or participants who were truly deficient in the nutrient. Since then, long-term studies have revealed potential harms from taking fish oil unnecessarily.” The article went on to break down the benefits of fish oil, such as for heart and brain health, and comparing those with concerns that have been raised. For instance, although there is strong evidence that fish oil lowers triglycerides, which can be problematic in connection to heart disease, high levels of omega-3s have been linked to increased stroke risk.

4. Although some studies have indicated that omega-3 fatty acids may help in treating age-related macular degeneration, a 2013 study found that research results have been inconsistent and there’s no definitive answer on whether fish oil helps the condition. “There is some clinical evidence for protection of AMD from omega-3 fatty acids. However, the results are not consistent,” researchers at the University of Ottawa Eye Institute said. “Hence, our conclusion is that this issue is neither clearly supported nor refuted by the present world literature. This is an intriguing and extremely important question but needs further study first with prospective cohort designs and, if positive, randomized clinical trials.”

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5. At least two studies have indicated that taking fish oil supplements or eating large amounts of oily fish can increase the risk of prostate cancer by 43 percent, and aggressive prostate cancer by 71 percent. “Evidence linking fish oil and cancer has been all over the map,” Harvard School of Health said. “Some research suggests diets high in fatty fish or fish oil supplements might reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer. Other research shows no such association.”

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

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Skepticism about whether fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, helps to treat a variety of health issues is fueled by studies that have come out in the past five years.
fish oil, skeptics, reports, for, doubters
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2014-41-07
Sunday, 07 Dec 2014 01:41 PM
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