Are Omega 3’s Really Beneficial or Not?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Research can make deciding what you need to do to promote heart health so confusing. There are two new studies showing contradictory results when it comes to omega 3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease risk.


    Let's talk about each and what you need to take away from the results.


    Study #1


    Researchers compared the heart health and exercise capacity of 98 patients randomly divided between a control group receiving a placebo supplement and the test group supplementing 850-882 milligrams of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. All study participants were diagnosed with early stage heart failure.

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    Heart failure is when the heart is unable to pump enough blood throughout the body to keep up with workload demands.


    After 1 year of follow-up, which included monthly assessments, individuals receiving the omega 3 supplements should significant improvements compared to the group receiving the placebo supplement. Test results found left-ventricular function to have improved for those receiving the omega 3 fatty acids, while the placebo group left-ventricular function actually worsened. Oxygen capacity was also measured and improvements were seen in the omega 3 supplement group, not the placebo group.


    Hospitalization rates for heart failure were drastically different between the two groups also. Six percent of individuals supplementing omega 3 were hospitalized compared to 30% in the placebo group.


    Study #2


    Researchers divided ~5000 study participants into 4 groups to study the impact of omega 3's in heart attack survivors.


    Group #1 received omega 3's found in fish (EPA and DHA)
    Group #2 received omega 3s found in plants (ALA)
    Group #3 received all three forms of omega 3's (EPA, DHA, & ALA)
    Group #4 received a placebo (the control group)


    All four groups received the supplement (or placebo) in the form of 19 grams of margarine daily.


    Initial results showed reduced cardiovascular events with the EPA and DHA supplement. However, after 30 months neither the EPA and DHA supplement or the ALA offered increased protection compared to the placebo.


    It is possible since the study participates also received antihypertensive, antithrombotic, and lipid-modifying therapy that the impact of omega 3 supplements was more difficult to pin point.


    OR this study could show that adding omega 3's to different foods, such as margarine, is not the best option for increasing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids.


    The Take Away


    So, what should you do?


    Use the best of both worlds. Continue to get your omega 3's daily from a high quality supplement and from actually eating fish at least twice a week as recommended by the American Heart Association. Then use products that contain added omega 3's, such as margarine, as an added bonus if you want.


    Be sure to sign up for the free e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure provided by Health Central dietitian Lisa Nelson at




Published On: December 15, 2010