Here’s what I consider to be breaking news: An institution at the heart of the medical mainstream publicly questioning the wisdom of a prestigious medical journal. What makes this even more rare is the fact that the institution was defending the reputation of a dietary supplement: Omega-3 fatty acids.
The institution is the American Heart Association (AHA). The publication is The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Redo the maths
We’ve heard this so many times before: a high-profile study completely bad-mouths a supplement, but once a little scrutiny is applied their whole conclusion falls flat on its face.
In this case, the study found that omega-3s didn’t lower the risk of death due to cardiac events.
The truth is, if you’ve got a serious heart condition, you can’t expect a daily pill (supplement or drug) to prevent a heart attack or a stroke. A daily dose of omega-3 MIGHT do that, but you can’t expect a silver bullet. It’s heart support, not heart magic.
Having said that, the heart support omega-3 provides is significant. Especially if you’re in good health to begin with.
In this study, many of the subjects were not in good health. In fact, many were taking heart medications. So heart problems were already underway.
In addition, this study was an analysis of 20 different trials. So the quality, doses, and sources of omega-3s varied widely.
All these variables are enough to dismiss the conclusion. And here’s where the American Heart Association comes in.
An AHA spokesperson told the Wall St. Journal that the researchers applied a very high standard for statistical significance. However, if they had applied the standard researchers normally use their results would have linked omega-3 supplement use with a REDUCTION in cardiac deaths of
nearly 10 per cent!
According to the AHA they will continue to recommend omega-3 supplements to heart disease patients.
These supplements aren’t silver bullets. But they can still produce amazing results despite what the JAMA says.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
“Association Between Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 308, No. 10, 9/12/12, jama.jamanetwork.com
“Questioning the Superpowers of Omega-3 in Diets” Melinda Beck, The Wall St. Journal, 10/1/12, online.wsj.com