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Omega 3 For Hearts, Brains, or Neither?

Updated: Feb 11



Starting With the Heart



A Cochrane Systematic Review (aka the mother lode in a fact mine) looked into the effectiveness of Omega‐3 fatty acids for prevention of cardiovascular disease.


We all know that eating more fish or taking omega‐3 supplements reduces our risk of heart disease, stroke and death – or does it?


The review looked at studies involving a total of more than 112 000 people, and the conclusions involved much use of the phrase “makes little or no difference”.


The study did make a point of noting that fish and seafood are nutrient‐dense and rich in a variety of other nutrients (such as vitamin D, calcium, iodine, selenium), so they are useful foods even without cardiovascular benefits. 


But when it comes to omega 3 supplements, the evidence suggested that taking Omega-3 capsules did NOT reduce heart disease, stroke or death.



Thinking About the Brain


Two separate investigations reviewed existing studies into the use of Omega-3's for the prevention of cognitive decline, and the use of Omega-3's for the treatment of mild to moderate dementia.


The first review found no reason to criticise Omega-3's... but they found no worthy evidence of their effectiveness in preventing cognitive decline.


The second investigation found no convincing evidence for omega‐3 supplements being effective in the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimers Disease.


It seems that we all love to believe the positive stories that suggest benefits to be gained, and we don't really like to let go of those ideas once we've heard them.


Omega-3 supplements have been found unlikely to do us harm, but there isn't good evidence for them doing much of anything else, either.


Bummer. I suppose I'll have to eat better and exercise more instead...


The Cochrane reviews:


"Omega‐3 fatty acids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease" was published in July 2018.


"Omega 3 fatty acid for the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia" was published in June 2012


"Omega‐3 fatty acids for the treatment of dementia" was published in April 2016

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Information provided on this site is intended to be educational. It is not intended to provide medical advice and does not replace advice from your health practitioner.