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Omega-3 fatty acids suppletion does not offer cardiovascular benefits


Omega-3 fatty acids, whether from eating fish or as  dietary supplements, or produced in the body from alpha linolenic acid of vegetable origin, have always had a favourable reputation in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. This was mainly based on the findings of epidemiological research. However, systematic analyses of the results of randomised controlled clinical studies have failed to demonstrate any cardiovascular protective effect. Guidelines recommending omega-3 fatty acids could be revised in this respect.


  • Omega-3 fatty acids, whether from eating fish or from dietary supplements or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, which is present in plants and is converted to omega-3 fatty acids in the human body) are currently recommended in guidelines, based on their favourable reputation concerning the possible prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Epidemiological research has found associations between a reduced incidence of cardiovascular morbidity and a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids, though the causal relation is unclear.
  • A carefully designed and conducted systematic review with meta-analysis of the pooled findings of over 70 randomised controlled studies now shows that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids or alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) has no effect on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
  • The favourable reputation of omega-3 fatty acids and/or ALA regarding the prevention of cardiovascular diseases must be qualified or rejected, as the gold standard of proof, based on randomised controlled studies, is lacking.

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Authors

  • mw S. van der Heijden MSc, dr H.J.E.M. Janssens