Omega-3 fatty acid supplements not helpful for CVD prevention, JAMA reports

September 20, 2012

Treatment with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids to prevent cardiovascular disease has been controversial. See what the overall results of one recent meta-analysis and review say about the issue.

Treatment with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been controversial. A recent meta-analysis and review showed that overall, omega-3 PUFA supplementation did not lower the risk of CVD, according to data published in the September 12 issue of JAMA.

Evangelos C. Rizos, MD, PhD, and colleagues conducted a literature review and included data from 20 randomized studies of 68,680 patients, who received omega-3 as supplements or through dietary counseling. All but 2 trials were based on omega-3 supplementation with a mean omega-3 dose of 1.51 g per day. In 10 studies, the omega-3 dose was 1 g or greater per day. Median treatment duration was 2 years and the maximum was 6.2 years. In most cases, omega-3 PUFAs were administered for secondary CVD prevention, the authors noted.

“Overall, omega-3 PUFA supplements were not statistically significantly associated with a reduced all-cause mortality (RR=0.96; 95% CI, 0.91-1.02; P=.17),” the authors said. In the all-cause mortality review, 17 studies were included for a total of 6,295 events in a group of 63,279 participants.

In a review of 13 studies, 3,480 cardiac deaths occurred in a group of 56,407 participants. Again, omega-3 supplements were not helpful, showing no statistically significant association for supplementation and cardiac death (RR=0.91; 95% CI, 0.85-0.98; P=.01), the article noted.

The authors also found that omega-3 supplementation did not reduce the rates of sudden death, according to 7 studies of 41,751 patients and 1,030 events (RR=0.87; 95% CI, 0.75-1.01; P=.06). Supplementation did not reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, which included 13 studies of 53,875 patients (RR=0.89; 95% CI, 0.76-1.04; P=.14), or stroke, which included data from 9 studies of 52,589 patients (RR=1.05; 95% CI, 0.93-1.18; P=.47).

“Our findings do not justify the use of omega-3 as a structured intervention in everyday clinical practice or guidelines supporting dietary omega-3 PUFA administration,” the authors concluded.