Study reveals marketers amplify benefits of fish oil for heart health

Dietary supplements, including fish oil, are popular in the US, but do these supplements truly offer heart health benefits?

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center delved into this topic in a study published on JAMA Cardiology.

Fish oil supplements have become a significant player in the supplement industry, with claims about their positive impact on heart health.

However, the study discovered that most fish oil supplement labels promote these benefits despite limited scientific evidence. The study focused on two types of claims: qualified health claims (QHCs) and structure/function claims.

The FDA makes qualified health claims based on scientific evidence, while structure/function claims highlight the roles of nutrients without making specific disease-related claims [1].

The study found that most fish oil supplements carried health claims, especially structure/function claims, which can potentially mislead consumers.

Interestingly, out of the assessed supplements, a significant portion centered around heart health, even though numerous clinical trials found no cardiovascular advantages from fish oil supplements.

The study had its limitations, including the voluntary nature of label submissions and the assessment of only the 16 largest supplement brands.

It’s important to note that not all structure/function claims are necessarily unsupported, as some experts argue that they provide valuable general health information to consumers.

The question of whether fish oil supplements aid heart health remains ambiguous due to mixed research findings [2].

Some studies suggest potential benefits, such as reduced cardiovascular events and lower triglyceride levels, especially with higher doses of EPA and DHA [3]. However, other randomized trials found no cardiovascular advantages from these supplements [4].

The researchers highlighted the variability in EPA and DHA content across different fish oil products, which can impact their safety and efficacy.

While there’s no established daily recommendation for EPA and DHA, experts recommend looking for supplements containing around 250 mg of combined EPA and DHA daily.

Dietary supplements, including fish oil, are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as drugs [5]. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 sets specific supplement manufacturing and labeling standards. Despite this, issues can arise, such as inaccurate ingredient levels or undisclosed additives.

To ensure safety when buying supplements, experts advise looking for third-party tested products and consulting with practitioners for personalized guidance.

While fish oil supplements can offer potential health benefits, consumers must be informed and cautious about their choices.

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