Generally speaking, the merits of omega-3 are not the subject of controversy. Nevertheless, a few people still believe a link between supplements and health benefits has not yet been convincingly proven. As a matter of fact, I just read a blog post on this very topic.
Using Lovaza as a scapegoat, the author tries to establish an analogy between fish oil and snake oil. For those of you that don’t know, Lovaza is a prescription brand of fish oil.
In my view, the argument that fish oil is nothing more than a modern day potion is wrong because its conclusions are not supported by sound evidence and they depend on a number of false assumptions.
First, the argument claims that omega-3s have little or no effect on general health, yet it never really does anything to explain the basis for this conclusion.
Instead, of pointing to fish oil benefits proven by research to support this statement, the author cites findings from a meta-analysis (a fancy word for an academic google search) which indicate omega-3s have limited effects on restenosis – which is a “narrowing of the arteries. There is one glaring problem with the assumption here.
Clearly, restenosis is not analogous to general health. If it were, everyone with narrow arteries would be unhealthy and everyone without them would be healthy.
Second, the argument concludes that taking taking fish oil supplements for elevated triglycerides is useless. He supports this argument by pointing to Lovaza’s inability to prevent heart disease. There actually two false assumptions here. For one thing, the argument assumes Lovaza and all fish oil supplements are alike. Yet, Lovaza is an ethyl ester (EE)-based product and is inferior to its natural triglyceride (TG)-based rivals. For another, it assumes that a reduction in triglycerides has no bearing on the reduced risk for heart disease. Of course, since triglycerides are a known risk factor for heart disease, then some reduction in relative risk can safely be assumed.
Furthermore, the scientific review left much to be desired as a basis for an argument on the effects of omega-3s on heart disease.
For example, many key words such as “docosahexaenoic”, “eicosapentaenoic” and “CVD” were left out of the study and others such as “omega-3s” were included. Thus, making it difficult to apply any of the findings to additional heart disease risk factors other than restenosis.
To illustrate the problems here, I conducted a mini-experiment and replicated the search using the the added terms. Granted, I only used one scholarly database, but I found nearly 300 more studies! Moreover, many of the existing scientific studies are concerned with specific fatty acids which comprise omega-3, and rarely use that term as a catch-all.
Finally, the argument omits the overwhelming evidence from clinical studies suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may be very helpful in treating a variety of health conditions including heart disease. To be sure, there are numerous studies which support the hypothesis that omega-3s have positive health benefits for cases of Angina, Arrhythmia, Athersclerosis, Congestive Heart Failure, High Cholesterol/Triglycerides, along with heart disease. Current research even expands on existing knowledge, suggesting that it is actually the eicosapentaenoic (EPA) found in fish oil with greater heart healthy benefits.
In short, for the reasons listed above, I believe the argument that fish oil is nothing more than a modern day potion is wrong.
Source: Fish Oil Salesmen