Why media coverage on Omega 3s can become so misleading ?

logo_tharos.pngAs recently informed by GOED, the latest in the recent spate of negative omega-3 coverage comes from an article by Peter Whoriskey at The Washington Post.

Although the article includes a variety of negative statements, it does not cover any of the positive findings from the studies on triglycerides, blood pressure and coronary death risk reduction.  Neither the article discuss the benefits of eating fatty fish despite and the fact that the U.S. government last year recommended an increase in fatty fish intake for pregnant women and children.

In addition, the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) reaffirmed the recommendation of the 2010 DGAC to consume eight ounces (226g) of fatty fish per week.

On a positive note, Whoriskey acknowledges that it’s possible that fish oil has health benefits that current scientific research is not designed to detect…“Most trials have focused on the effects of fish oil on people who have had a history of heart trouble. The trouble with those studies is that such patients are typically taking an array of heart medicines, such as statins, blood thinners and beta blockers. It is possible, scientists say, that the effects of the fish oil can’t be detected among the effects of the other medicines.”

While we are all still learning about the role of omega-3s and heart health there are three areas where there is consistently a benefit. Every meta-analysis of human clinical trials published in the last 10 years on reducing cardiac (or coronary) death risk, maintaining healthy blood pressure and/or lowering triglyceride levels has consistently found a significant benefit to omega-3 consumption.

The New York Times published a similar article in March this year to which GOED also rebutted, as follows;

We performed a search through the body of evidence published during 2005-2012. In a Pubmed search, we found 136 randomized, controlled trials on EPA and DHA in cardiovascular diseases. Of these, 105 papers (77% of the studies) found a benefit in either the primary or secondary endpoints. It is true that not all of these looked at hard outcomes like cardiovascular events, but they all looked at various markers or outcomes cardiovascular diseases. The data in raw form can be found here.

“While this should not be considered a proper scientific review of the evidence, some of the insights we found are interesting. The papers that found no benefits included 22,540 subjects in total, whereas those that showed one or more beneficial effects included 123,848 subjects.

“For major cardiovascular events, four clinical trials actually found statistically significant beneficial effects, compared to five that had no effect. The studies finding a benefit included nearly 42,000 patients, compared to 26,000 in those that found no effect. These studies are in very disparate patient populations suffering from a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases, but the statistics are still more interesting and suggestive than the Times asserted.

“Furthermore, there are areas where a pretty consistent beneficial effect is demonstrated. There were 26 clinical studies published that measured triglyceride reductions during that period, for instance, and all but one showed statistically significant reduction in TG levels. Those that showed reductions included 15,622 subjects, the one study that did not find a significant reduction included 18 subjects. There were also consistent beneficial effects seen in markers like VLDL cholesterol concentrations, P-selectin, systolic blood pressure, and platelet aggregation.”

Regarding the current Washington Post article, fortunately so far it has not gained much additional traction in other media outlets as it misleads the consumer.

A reasonable question to make is if there is an agenda behind this misleading articles attempting consumers take prevention as a leading part of their lives against costly medication.

GOED’s update on the US Fish Consumption Advice.

Picture of Dimitri Sclabos
Dimitri Sclabos

Founder and Co-owner