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Analysis of conflicting fish oil studies finds that omega-3 fatty acids still matter
Date:11/28/2012

ascular disease. But, Jump said, millions of people now at risk for cardiovascular disease take medications such as statin drugs for high cholesterol; fibrates for high triglycerides; anti-thrombotics to thin their blood; and other drugs with anti-inflammatory or anti-arrhythmia effects.

Fish oils can have positive effects on virtually all of these same cardiovascular risk factors, Jump said, but so can the drugs.

"Some of the early studies done on fish oil were prior to so many effective medications being widely available and heavily used," Jump said. "And people often forget that nutrients, like fish oils, are less potent than prescription drugs, and often have their best value when used for extended periods.

"When so many people in these studies are taking a regimen of medications to address the same issues that fish oil might also affect, it's easy to understand why any added benefit from the fish oils is more difficult to detect," he said.

The point, Jump said, is not that omega-3 fatty acids have no value they do. But for studies of their value in cardiovascular disease, which are often done when patients are taking other medications, that value is less clear.

A wide body of other research, he says, makes it clear that omega-3 fatty acids also have health benefits that go beyond cardiovascular disease. They have been shown to improve visual acuity; improve cognitive function and reduce dementia; reduce inflammation and perhaps some types of cancer, such as colon cancer; and reduce total mortality.

Among the findings of this review:

  • An important type of omega-3 fatty acid for human health is DHA, which is the predominant omega-3 fatty acid that accumulates in tissues.

  • Plant-derived sources of these fatty acids, such as flaxseed oil or chia seeds, have less benefit than those from cold-water fish, because of differences in how the human body processes these nutrients.


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Contact: Donald Jump
Donald.Jump@oregonstate.edu
541-737-4007
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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