Daily Fish Oil Supplement May Not Help Your Heart
Get your omega-3s from food, not pills, experts suggest
The meta-analysis performed by Chowdhury's team involved data from 72 studies with more than 600,000 participants from 18 nations. The team combined study findings to assess the heart health benefits of all types of dietary fat -- saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Until now, doctors have said that saturated fats increase "bad" LDL cholesterol, which can cause plaques to form in your arteries and raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
At the same time, omega-3 fatty acids were said to improve heart health because it increases your level of "good" HDL cholesterol. Good cholesterol is believed to help the body rid itself of bad cholesterol.
While this is still true, Chowdhury and his team found that neither effect seemed to make much difference for overall cardiac risk.
"Saturated fats are not essentially the main problem when it comes to risk of heart disease," Chowdhury said. "Also, omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids have no or little impact on reducing cardiovascular disease outcomes."
The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association representing the dietary supplement industry, released a statement calling the new report's viewpoint "potentially irresponsible" and accusing it of causing "nutritional guidance whiplash" for consumers.
"There are thousands of studies and decades of recommendations from government, academic, nutritional and medical organizations and experts supporting the important heart health benefits associated with diets high in polyunsaturated fats, low in saturated fats, and avoidance of trans fats," Duffy MacKay, a naturopathic doctor and the council's senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, said in the prepared statement.
MacKay added that dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association and the federal government both emphasize the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in a person's diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids do play an important role in good nutrition, as do other unsaturated fats, study author Chowdhury noted.
"Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for health," Chowdhury said. "We need omega-3 fatty acids for numerous normal body functions, such as controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain."