The PJ Tatler

Are Fish Oil Supplements Just Another Fish Story?

Omega oil, Schmomega oil. Two government recommendations in one!

For anyone wondering about whether to take a fish oil pill to improve your health, the Web site of the National Institutes of Health has some advice. Yes. And no. One page on the Web site endorses taking fish oil supplements, saying they are likely effective for heart disease, because they contain the “beneficial” fatty acids known as omega-3s. But another page suggests that, in fact, the fish oil pills seem useless: “Omega-3s in supplement form have not been shown to protect against heart disease.”

“I can see how you might think that there is some inconsistency,” Paul R. Thomas, a scientific consultant in NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements wrote in response to questions about the NIH pages.

About par for the course regarding government work, one might observe.

People in the United States spend about $1.2 billion annually for fish oil pills and related supplements even though the vast majority of research published recently in major journals provides no evidence of a health benefit. The “accrual of high-level evidence,” according to a review of studies published last year in an American Medical Association journal, shows “that the supplements lack efficacy across a range of health outcomes.”

While the persistent popularity of fish oil may reflect the human weakness for anything touted as a life-extending elixir, it also reflects that, even among scientists, diet notions can persist even when stronger evidence emerges contradicting them. Scientists, sometimes, are reluctant to let go of ideas.

Remember, this comes from the same folks who told us that steak and eggs were bad for us, and to eat a high-carb, low-fat diet that has resulted in an obesity epidemic that one sees on a daily basis.

Be sure to read:

Does Fish Oil Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?