By Craig Weatherby
The ability of omega-3 fish oil to reduce heart attack and death rates were first confirmed in a large, long-term European-American clinical trial called GISSI-Prevenzione.
And the U.S. university authors of a recent review confirmed that subsequent clinical evidence supports the value of omega-3 fish oil for reducing heart risks.
Importantly, they only looked at the best-designed trials: ones that were randomized and placebo-controlled.
Let’s look at that evidence review, and then examine a positive new clinical trial from Norway.
Recent clinical review affirms value of omega-3s for heart health
Scientists from Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University analyzed 11 high-quality clinical trials that involved 39,044 participants (Marik PE, Varon J 2009).
The volunteers in these trials included recent heart attack victims, people with an implanted cardiac defibrillator, and patients with heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, and/or high cholesterol levels.
The average trial length was a mere 2.2 years… not long, considering the many years it takes to develop cardiac and other conditions.
Their analysis of these 11 trials showed that omega-3 supplements reduced the risk of cardiovascular deaths and sudden cardiac death by 13 percent each and cut both the risk of death from any cause and non-fatal cardiovascular events by eight percent.
Now, those benefits have once again been affirmed in a three-year, placebo-controlled trial in Norwegian men.
Norwegian trial adds to positive clinical evidence
A team of researchers from two university-affiliated hospitals in Norway followed 563 Norwegian men aged 64 to 76 years for three years (Einvik G et al. 2010).
About one-quarter of the participants (28 percent) had some signs of cardiovascular disease at the outset.
During the trial period, the test group was assigned to diet counseling and took 2.4 grams of omega-3 fish oil per day.
The “control” group received diet counseling along with capsules containing a placebo (2.4 grams of omega-6 corn oil) per day.
After adjusting the results for various risk factors – age, smoking status, blood pressure, body mass index and blood glucose levels – men taking omega-3 fish oil supplements were 47 percent less likely to die from any cause and 11 percent less likely to suffer “adverse cardiovascular events” such as heart attacks and stroke.
The next time you see an article claiming that omega-3s don’t really aid heart health, remember that high-quality clinical trials and rigorous evidence reviews say otherwise.
This solid base of evidence explains why the American Heart Association and all major public health authorities recommend fish and fish oil.
- Einvik G, Klemsdal TO, Sandvik L, Hjerkinn EM. A randomized clinical trial on n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids supplementation and all-cause mortality in elderly men at high cardiovascular risk. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2010 Apr 10. [Epub ahead of print]
- Marik PE, Varon J. Omega-3 dietary supplements and the risk of cardiovascular events: a systematic review. Clin Cardiol. 2009 Jul;32(7):365-72. Review.