Want a Healthy Heart? Skip These Useless Pills

Sometimes I feel like I just keep repeating myself.

And the truth is, I have repeated myself often. That's because so many people simply haven't listened to what I've said for years. In fact, I still have people come to me and explain why they've started taking fish-oil pills.

So I'll say it again... Stop taking fish-oil supplements.

Fish contain low levels of saturated fat, but because it's a naturally occurring form, it's generally not bad for you. What's more important are the unsaturated fats. Fish are loaded with monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.

Monounsaturated fat is what makes up olive oil and is well-known to aid heart health. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory. Polyunsaturated fats are necessary for our brain health, but too many of them can cause problems. They include the omega fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation. Inflammation increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and accelerates aging.

Omega-6 fatty acids also help promote brain health and, along with omega-3s, help keep your bones healthy and your metabolism on track.

But a lot of people don't like seafood or don't want to try it. So the diet industry made fish-oil pills. The industry claims the pills help improve heart function, decrease inflammation, and help the brain work properly. (We know that omega-3s help with eye health, too.) But for many of these claims, the evidence for supplements just isn't there.

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The problem is that early studies showed that fish improved health. Those claims led to nutrition research that pointed to fish-oil as the probable mechanism. Like most things though, more isn't necessarily better.

There are two key risks to keep in mind when taking fish oil: high toxin content and bleeding.

Fish-oil supplements are more concentrated than regular fish. That means they can be full of toxins like polychlorinated biphenyls (a once-common component of plastics, banned by Congress in 1979), and dioxin. Several watchdog groups have found supplements that contain dangerously high amounts of these toxins.

Fish oil also alters your bleeding and coagulation functions. Take too much and you could induce strokes from bleeding into your brain.

But there's more... the pills might not even work for most of the conditions for which most people take them.

For instance, two years ago, we told you about a study from one of the leading medical journals, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that taking fish-oil supplements did not preserve brain health. The 3,000 participants involved took cognitive tests every two years. Those taking any type of fish-oil supplement saw no benefit compared with those who did not take pills.

And now a brand-new review from the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology, puts this to rest. Researchers reviewed 10 clinical trials with more than 77,000 participants combined. Their findings are very blunt: There is no support that taking fish-oil supplements reduces risk for cardiovascular disease or for fatal coronary heart disease. In other words, there's no proven connection that these pills will protect your heart.

Now, omega-3s are still very good for you. And there is some evidence that fish oil improves eye health. But if you go the pill route for eye health, you want to take it in moderation. Until high doses of fish oils are studied and the mechanism of action better understood by hematologists (blood doctors), I wouldn't take more than one or two pills a week, or 1,000 mg of oil.

In fact, I still say the best way to get the fats is to skip the pricey pills and go straight to the source. I try to eat fish once or twice a week. I prefer to eat fish that are lower in mercury... like salmon, light tuna, herring, mackerel, and anchovies.

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 1, 2018