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Several industry organizations have cited flaws in the large study.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published results of a meta-analysis last week suggesting that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has no significant effect on all-cause death, heart-related death, heart attack, or stroke. Natural products industry leaders have since inspected the study and found reasons for the unfavorable results.
Researchers from the University Hospital of Ioannina in Greece evaluated 20 randomized controlled trials on over 68,000 subjects consuming omega-3 fatty acid supplements or placebo. In total, 7044 deaths, 3993 cardiac deaths, 1150 sudden deaths, 1837 heart attacks, and 1490 strokes occurred during these studies. The researchers uncovered no statistical associations between omega-3 supplementation and reduced risk of any of these health conditions. The conclusion runs counter to recommendations of omega-3 intake for better heart health from organizations including the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association.
But the design of the meta-analysis appears “flawed,” says omega-3 industry leader the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED; Salt Lake City):
This meta-analysis looked at people who have already suffered heart attacks or strokes rather than the general healthy population, and like some other recent studies, failed to account for the effect of cardiovascular disease medications consumed by subjects in the studies analyzed.
Duffy MacKay, ND, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) agrees that several factors of the study were problematic. He says there is no record of which individuals in the placebo group were sufficient or insufficient in their omega-3 intake.
“While people should be eating a diet high in fatty fish which contain these nutrients, the reality is that people are simply not doing this,” said MacKay. “Omega-3 supplements serve as an affordable, convenient, and safe way to obtain omega-3 fatty acids and the array of health benefits they offer.”