Omega-3s: Is This the Final Word?

Charles P. Vega, MD


September 18, 2018

Hello. I'm Dr Charles Vega, and I am a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of California at Irvine. Welcome to Medscape Morning Report, our 1-minute news story for primary care.

Research has demonstrated that higher fish intake is associated with lower cardiovascular risk. But will supplements of the fatty acids found in fish bring the same benefit? The data have been conflicting.

The ASCEND trial included 15,000 patients with diabetes and without cardiovascular disease who were randomly assigned to a 1-g omega-3 fatty acid capsule daily or placebo.

Patients were followed for a mean of 7.4 years, making this the largest and longest randomized, placebo-controlled trial of omega-3s to date.

The researchers concluded that the supplements had no effect on serious vascular events, cancer, or mortality.

The global market for fish oil products was valued at $31 billion in 2015. While fatty acid supplements were not associated with an increased risk for serious adverse events in ASCEND, they can have an adverse effect on patients' pocketbooks. Seafood can also be prohibitively expensive and out of reach for many families. Unfortunately, these new data make clear that omega-3 supplements are not a less expensive route to get the same benefit.


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