Omega-3s in Debate

By middle age, most adults are starting to investigate lifestyle changes that can help prevent illness, promote well-being and safeguard an active and healthy older age.  While diet, exercise and social engagement continue to be cornerstones of proactive aging, there are is a constant barrage of supplements touted by experts to help prevent disease and boost health.  With omega-3s in debate, fish oil is one that has recently been debated as to its value for reducing the risk for cardiac events. 

According to a recent American Journal of Managed Care post, new research challenges past studies that showed fish oil could reduce cardiac events among seniors.  A new study out of the Cleveland Clinic found that treatment with two common omega-3 fatty acids did not reduce the risk for cardiac events among patients over the age of 70 who had suffered a recent heart attack. 

The STRENGTH trial included more than 13,000 patients in 22 countries beginning in 2014; when results showed that it was unlikely for carboxylic acid to demonstrate any benefits, the study was cut short in 2020.   The findings, which compared high dose omega-3 fatty acids with corn oil, found that the acid formulation was not effective in reducing major adverse cardiovascular events in patients with a high risk.  

As always, it is important to talk with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication or supplement.  Omega-3 supplements can be very costly, and it is debatable whether these supplements could provide protection against heart attacks or stroke.  But eating a healthy Mediterranean-style diet that includes at least two servings of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna or herring can offer health benefits.  According to Harvard Health, eating fish along with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains can help replace processed foods, red meat and refined grains, contributing to a more healthful overall diet. 

The takeaway? 

While you may not need to stop taking an omega-3 supplement, talk to your healthcare provider to determine if it necessary or still deemed beneficial.  There are no supplements that can replace a healthy diet, regular physical activity and stopping smoking – these lifestyle habits can reduce the risk for heart disease by nearly 80 percent.