Health benefits of omega-3 in doubt

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements might not reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) or have other health benefits after all, according to a meta-analysis carried out by UK researchers.

The finding contradicts earlier research which showed clear health benefits from high dietary levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and some plant oils, and are believed to be responsible for the low incidence of heart disease in the Inuit people of Greenland.

The researchers analysed data on over 600,000 participants from 48 randomised controlled trials and 41 analyses of 26 cohort studies to see if omega-3 fats had any effect upon total mortality, combined cardiovascular events, cancer and outcomes related to bleeding.

They found no evidence that omega-3 fats had any effect on the incidence of cancer and said that evidence for other beneficial effects was weak and inconsistent, even after studies considered at risk of possible bias were removed.

The authors emphasise that their findings do not 'rule out' beneficial effects existing, but no change to current practice is recommended until further 'high quality' randomised controlled trials are completed.

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