One reason this study caught many people off guard is that there has been much evidence showing that a diet rich in fish that contain omega-3 oils is good for you. The Mayo Clinic says that "eating fish helps your heart", especially fish like salmon that contain omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association (AHA) elaborates:
"Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden death. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque, and lower blood pressure (slightly)."This all sounds great. Because of the evidence about the benefits of fatty fish, supplement manufacturers have been marketing and selling fish oil pills for years, with great success. As I described back in 2010, GlaxoSmithKline even created a high-dose omega-3 fatty acid pill called Lovaza that has FDA approval.
But the evidence for that you can get the same benefit from supplemental omega-3 fatty acids — taking a pill, that is — is much weaker. In fact, a large review published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no connection at all between supplemental omega-3 and a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, or death in general. Other studies have reported similarly negative results. So it appears that fish oil pills may not have any heart benefits.
And now, with this new study, we learn that supplemental fish oil might increase the risk of prostate cancer.
The bottom line: the AHA recommendations about eating fish are probably still good ones. The AHA website says:
"We recommend eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week. Each serving is 3.5 oz. cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish. Enjoy fish baked or grilled, not fried."But popping a fish oil pill is not going to cut it. As we've seen before, supplements often fail to show the benefits that a healthy diet offers. So save your money and stop buying those fish oil pills — and fire up the grill and throw on a few salmon fillets for this weekend's barbecue.