Is it true that there is no point in taking fish oil supplements for heart health?
High-dose fish oil supplements can lower triglyceride levels in people with very high triglyceride levels, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. However, taking fish oil supplements has not been shown to prevent heart attacks or stroke in people who have heart disease, nor has it been shown to prevent heart disease in healthy people.
On the other hand, eating at least two servings per week of fish high in omega-3s - like anchovies, salmon and mackerel - is associated with a reduced risk of stroke. And in one long-term study, healthy older people who were not taking fish oil supplements but had higher blood levels of omega-3s were found to be 40% less likely to have a heart attack. While it's still unclear why eating fish seems to be more beneficial for cardiovascular health than taking fish oil supplements, it could be that fish contains other nutrients or fatty acids that are not present in concentrated fish oil.
ConsumerLab.com has found that when oils are concentrated for their omega-3 (EPA and DHA) content, other fatty acids get removed. This includes omega-7, which some studies suggest has a beneficial cardiovascular effect. It is possible that less concentrated fish oil, which includes a wider spectrum of fatty acids, could be more beneficial than concentrated fish oil. You can find out how much omega-7, as well as omega-3 (from EPA and DHA) are in dozens of fish oil supplements on the market and their quality ratings, in ConsumerLab.com's Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements Review (Including Krill, Algae, Calamari, Green-lipped Mussel Oil) >>
Keep in mind that there is evidence for other uses of fish oil supplements, including inflammatory diseases, eye disease, and mental health disorders. The details (and dosage for each) are included in the Review noted above.
This CL Answer initially posted on 4/4/2015.
Last updated 8/3/2017.