Benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements May Be Overstated

Check the labels of various dietary supplements and you’ll likely find they tout a broad range of health benefits. Manufacturers are permitted to say, for example, that a supplement supports a body part or function (like brain health or the immune system).

A new study published August 23 by JAMA Cardiology looked specifically at more than 2,800 unique fish oil supplements and found that the majority of these products carry labels that imply a health benefit for bodily organs, structures, and functions — but lack the scientific trial data to back up their stated effectiveness.

“I worry as a cardiologist that patients may read a statement like ‘promotes heart health’ and wrongly infer that the supplement has been shown to prevent heart disease,” says a coauthor of the study, Ann Marie Navar, MD, PhD, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “I wouldn’t call any specific claim that we found ‘misinformation’ per se, but I think there is a lot of room for confusion.”

Majority of Health Claims Not Supported by Scientific Evidence

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not officially approve dietary supplements for any purpose, and supplements cannot state that they prevent, treat, or cure any disease.


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