There is a good side and a bad side about virtually anything. This includes science studies. Like statistics, the damned things can be made to prove or disprove almost anything, including supporting obvious prejudices. Some “findings” can stump even the experts. Such as those recently questioning the health benefits of omega-3 supplements.
You see, having heard about all the wonderful things omega-3 supplements can do for your health, the last thing you would expect to hear is straight-up contradicting information. One science writer had this to say:
One can’t help but wonder, do we really need any of this crap? If a science writer can’t figure out what’s good for her and what’s bad, what hope does a person with no reporting skills have?
We have a serious communications problem. How can health reporters make sure that readers understand all the caveats? First, we can talk about the study design. Some studies are simply better than others. A clinical trial should carry more weight than an observational study. Second, let’s provide some context. What other studies have been conducted? How does this new study fit into the larger body of research? Too often decades of previous research are dismissed with a single line that refers to prior “mixed results.” Let’s dig in a bit more.
I couldn’t ask more apt questions than raised by Cassandra Willyard in the above quoted block. You can read the full article by going to Supplements: Something Smells Fishy. But the question remains; are fish oil supplements worth the cost?
Since the study that raised doubts about fish oil benefits, many have been asking that question or variations of the same. The best person to answer it, in my opinion would be someone with a science background and who has demonstrated interest in dietary supplements but without endorsing particular brands. For me, that person would be Dr. Oz.
Here’s an excerpt from Doctors Oz and Roizen answer to a question about fish oil and brain, particularly about the study that claimed the oil does not help keep your brain healthy:
Now, about the study that says omega-3s don’t prevent cognitive decline. Where to start?
No. 1: The new study (a review of three studies, not an original study) says nothing about the brain benefits of long-term supplementation of omega-3s, begun when you’re younger than 60.
No. 2: The participants under review didn’t display enough difference or decline in cognitive ability to really assess omega-3s’ benefits during the (too-short) span of the studies.
No. 3: No one cited the type of omega-3 used in the three studies! DHA, the brain-active one, is the one we want to get into you. It makes a difference!
Thanks to Drs Oz and Roizen, for summing it up so well. It appears like a case of flawed or incomprehensive study. I would encourage you to read the full question and answer article posted at Inforum.com.
The answer to the question “are fish oil supplements worth it?” would be, yes. But you should go for quality products that provide high concentrations of omega-3 DHA. Most of the products you will find on the health products aisle contain very little of this beneficial fatty acid.