Scientists Rubbish Omega-3 Lifesaver Claims

Taking Omega 3 fish oil supplements will not make you live longer or protect your body from heart disease, says a major new study.

Although millions take the supplements every day to beat cancer and coronary problems, doctors say they offer little or no protection.

The report was clear:

  • Fish-based omega-3 supplements taken as a supplement, like cod liver oil, had no medical benefits
  • Plant-based omega-3 from seeds or nuts may offer a small benefit to people with heart irregularities

“This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods,” said Dr Lee Hooper from the University of East Anglia, who led the research on behalf of the respected Cochrane Library.

Contrary to popular belief

“Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.”

“While these findings go against popular beliefs, the most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats [supplements] on cardiovascular health.

“While oily fish is a healthy food, it is unclear from the small number of trials whether eating more oily fish is protective of our hearts.”

Omega-3 works by helping the body counter some fats in the blood, but did nothing to prevent heart attacks, cardiovascular disease or strokes.


The research revealed the benefits of taking omega-3 supplements were so small that only one in 143 people would not develop an irregular heartbeat.

Random trials

Omega-3 supplements are one of the world’s leading diet supplements, with companies promoting their virtues making sales worth billions of pounds each year.

Even the British government recommends eating at least two portions of fish a week, of which one should be oily, to avoid heart problems.

The Cochrane research covered 112,000 people who took part in randomly controlled trials that tested a supplement against a dummy pill over a long period.

Cardiovascular medicine expert Professor Tim Chico at the University of Sheffield explained similar issues arose with vitamins where taking too many supplements to replicate the benefits of a healthy diet was harmful.

“Supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I’d advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead,” he said.