Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements is often touted as a simple way to protect your heart – but experts say the evidence that it does any good is flimsy at best.
Cochrane researchers looked at trials in over 100,000 people and found little proof that it prevented heart disease, reports BBC.
They say the chance of getting any meaningful benefit from taking omega-3 is one in 1,000.
Eating oily fish, however, can still be recommended as part of a healthy diet.
The review mainly looked at supplements rather than omega-3 from eating fish. Experts still believe the latter is good for the heart as well as general health.
The NHS says people should try to eat two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily fish, such as salmon, fresh tuna or mackerel, to get enough “good” fats.
Omega-3 is a family of fats that includes:
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) – which the body can’t make for itself but is found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – which the body can make from ALA but are also present in oily fish and fish oils, including cod liver oil
Some brands of milk, yoghurt, bread and spreads have extra omega-3 (usually ALA) added to them.
But when it comes to fish oil supplements, Cochrane lead author, Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: “We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega-3 supplements protect the heart.
“This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods.
“Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.
“The review provides good evidence that taking long-chain omega-3 [fish oil, EPA or DHA] supplements does not benefit heart health or reduce our risk of stroke or death from any cause.
“The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.”