PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Fish oil and its omega-3 fatty acids are so popular that they generate around $ 2 billion in sales worldwide each year.
However, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association could send shock waves through fish oil believers.
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Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist with the Cleveland Clinic, said the study used prescription fish oil at 600 sites in 20 countries to determine its benefits in reducing heart problems.
“This is a drug that is similar to the fish oil people buy over the counter, but much more effective,” said Dr. Nits. “It has a higher amount of so-called omega-3 fatty acids.”
And the result?
“There was absolutely no reduction in cardiovascular events with this very active fish oil,” he said.
That finding comes just a year after another study showed positive effects of fish oil, but Dr. Nissen says the study was flawed by using a placebo that was actually harmful.
“The earlier drug, which was cheap and widely available, was approved by the FDA, but we think it is a bug,” he said.
WATCH: Fears of fish oil
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Dr. Nissen insists on this, as harmless corn oil was used as a placebo in this new study.
“Patients treated with the fish oil product were 69% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Nits. “So there is actually some harm associated with ingesting the fish oil, and we think that this is also an important finding.”
Knowing that people believe in the benefits of cognitive health, weight loss, and better eyesight and the list goes on, but Dr. Nissen says the study results are crucial.
“It’s important to the public too,” he said. “Because people believe that fish oil is beneficial.”
People need to understand the potential for harm he says.
“It’s really kind of a wake-up call,” he explained. “When you see a study like this where the strongest prescription fish oil didn’t have any beneficial effects. It certainly doesn’t mean that over-the-counter fish oil is something that shouldn’t be consumed on a large scale. “
When asked if people should ditch their fish oil supplies, Dr. Nissen, it is important to understand that the study participants were given prescription fish oil, which is many times stronger than what anyone can buy over the counter.
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If fish oil is a regular part of your day, stopping suddenly can cause problems. So talk to your doctor and decide how high the risk is relative to the benefit.