Omega-3 Fish Oil: Insufficient Evidence of Heart Disease Prevention

MARCH 20, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor

The American Heart Association (AHA) has published a new science advisory stating that there is not enough evidence to support the use of fish oil supplementation as a primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in the general population. However, these supplements may help prevent death and hospitalization in patients who have recently experienced a heart attack.  
The advisory is an update from AHA’s 2002 recommendations that fish oil may be beneficial for patients with documented coronary heart disease. Based on conflicting evidence, however, the AHA indicated that there is not enough scientific basis to strongly back the use of fish oil for cardiovascular disease prevention.  
“People in the general population who are taking omega-3 fish oil supplements are taking them in the absence of scientific data that shows any benefit of the supplements in preventing heart attacks, stroke, heart failure or death for people who do not have a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease,” David Siscovick, MD, MPH, chair of the writing committee of the new science advisory published in Circulation, said in a press release.
The AHA reviewed multiple randomized controlled trials to assess the effects of omega-3 supplementation on the occurrence of cardiovascular diseases. The studies evaluated the clinical impact of omega-3 supplements on outcomes such as heart attacks, strokes, and atrial fibrillation.
The researchers determined that, although there is no scientific evidence of the preventive benefits of fish oil supplements, prescribing supplementation as a treatment should still be considered in patients with prior heart attack or heart failure.
Fish oil supplements may help prevent death after a heart attack but lack evidence of cardiovascular benefit for the general population of cardiovascular benefit for general population [news release]. Texas. AHA’s website. . Accessed Mar. 17, 2017.
Siscovick DS, Barringer TA, Fretts AM, et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (fish oil) supplementation and the prevention of clinical cardiovascular disease: a science advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017.