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Daily Fish Oil Supplement May Not Help Your Heart

Get your omega-3s from food, not pills, experts suggest

continued...

But people should focus on getting their omega-3 fatty acids from food rather than through supplements, the researcher said.

Dr. Linda Van Horn, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association (AHA), agreed.

"There is continuing data to support eating fish on a regular basis for heart health and other health benefits like [mental] function," Van Horn said. "There's no question that eating fish provides tremendous value in reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, but the use of a supplement -- whether it's a fish oil or any other nutrient -- really needs to be handled carefully."

People should keep their overall fat intake low because fats contain twice the calories of proteins or carbohydrates, according to federal guidelines.

Van Horn said the AHA's nutrition committee will review these new findings at its next meeting.

"I don't think we take any of these kind of findings lightly, nor would we recommend the benefit of a supplement ever over a heart-healthy diet," she said, noting that the new review is "further elaborating on nutrient data that weren't even available five or 10 years ago."

And, she added, "While there's a tendency for the American public to throw up their hands, the better way to interpret this is, 'How wonderful we have additional data and can look at these questions that previously went unanswered.'"

For his part, MacKay said the new studies will not alter the tips he provides his patients.

"If you want to play an active role in staying heart healthy, the best advice remains the same: Eat a healthy diet rich in polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3s, add omega-3 supplements if you're not eating enough fatty fish, and exercise regularly," MacKay said.

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