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No Clear Benefit of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Heart, Mortality

Higher intake also not associated with increased risk of cancer

MONDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids does not appear to have clear benefits as far as mortality or cardiovascular events, according to a review article published online March 24 in BMJ.

Lee Hooper, a lecturer from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K., and colleagues analyzed 48 randomized controlled trials involving 36,913 people and 41 cohort studies that examined the effect of short-chain and longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids for at least six months on various health outcomes.

The researchers found no strong evidence that intake of omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of total mortality (relative risk 0.87) or combined cardiovascular events (relative risk 0.95). The relative risks were similar even when studies at low risk of bias or studies examining only long-chain omega-3 fats were considered separately. Higher intake of omega-3 fats did not appear to be associated with an increased risk of cancer, according to the study.

"For the general public some omega-3 fat is good for health," writes Eric Brunner, Ph.D., of the Royal Free and University College London Medical School, in an accompanying editorial. He notes that omega-3 fats are structural components of cell membranes, that they modulate cytokine production and that they are particularly important during pregnancy.

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